Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

PSNI data breach: Details of all officers is accidentally published

Outrage at massive police data breach that saw the personal details of more than 10,000 PSNI officers and staff accidentally published online

  • The PSNI apologised today after the information was accidentally leaked 

Police in Northern Ireland have been involved in a data breach ‘of monumental proportions’ affecting thousands of officers and civilian staff.

The major breach reportedly involves names, ranks and other personal data from employees of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), but does not involve the officers’ and civilians’ private addresses, it is understood.

Containing the surnames of more than 10,000 staff, the data was mistakenly divulged in response to a Freedom of Information request and appears to cover everyone within the service, from chief constable Simon Byrne down.

The request for information had asked for a breakdown of all staff rank and grades in the PSNI.

Liam Kelly, chair of the PFNI, said: ‘This is a breach of monumental proportions. Even if it was done accidentally, it still represents a data and security breach that should never have happened.

At a press conference in Belfast, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd (pictured) said the surnames, initials, the rank or grade, the location and the departments of all current officers had been accidentally published in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request

Mr Todd said: ‘In terms of the security for individuals, there’s nothing at the moment to suggest there’s any immediate security concerns, but we have put actions in place to ensure that if anything does arise we will be aware of that, and then we can mitigate accordingly’

‘Rigorous safeguards ought to have been in place to protect this valuable information which, if in the wrong hands, could do incalculable damage.

‘The men and women I represent are appalled by this breach. They are shocked, dismayed and justifiably angry. Like me, they are demanding action to address this unprecedented disclosure of sensitive information.’

A spreadsheet was published publicly online relating to how many officers the service has of each rank, but it had a second tab that contained more detailed information about thousands of staff members and their employment, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

The UUP representative on the Policing Board of Northern Ireland MLA Mike Nesbitt tonight called for an emergency meeting of the Policing Board.

He said: ‘It is imperative that officers, staff and their families and friends understand how seriously this breach is being taken, and that the board is determined to fulfil its oversight and challenge functions appropriately.’

He added: ‘I view this like a serious incident when people are seriously physically injured. The priority is to assist the injured. Only after that do you turn to examine the other issues.

‘In other words, my thoughts are with those whose names have been released into the public domain, who had a reasonable expectation this would never happen.’

Senior police were last night meeting to discuss the breach which is being attributed to human error ahead, while Stormont politicians were calling for an emergency meeting.

He added: ‘We’ve identified some steps that we can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It is regrettable but it is simple human error’

Alliance leader Naomi Long MLA said: ‘This level of data breach is clearly of profound concern, not least to police officers, civilian staff and their families, who will be feeling incredibly vulnerable and exposed tonight, and in the days ahead.

‘Immediate action must be taken to offer them proper information, support, guidance and necessary reassurances regarding their and their families’ security.’

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been notified about the incident.

Last night Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd apologised to officers but said there were no immediate security concerns arising from the data breach.

Mr Todd clarified that every serving police officer and member of police staff has had data compromised.

He said: ‘We’ve looked into the circumstances, we’ll continue with our investigation, but the very early considerations are that this is simple human error and the people who have been involved in the process have acted in good faith.

‘We’ve identified some steps that we can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

‘It is regrettable but it is simple human error.’

An ICO spokesman said: ‘The Police Service of Northern Ireland has made us aware of an incident and we are assessing the information provided.’

The PSNI was contacted for comment.

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