The Northern Ireland police force is the victim of a data breach. The names of all 10,000 police officers and other employees have ended up on the street. The Northern Ireland Police Union speaks of “a leak of monumental magnitude”.
Various British media, including the BBC, write this.
Data exposed due to human error
According to experts, this is the largest data breach in the history of the Northern Ireland police. The leak leaked initials, surnames, job titles and work locations. According to the BBC, this data appeared on the What Do They Know website, which publishes government documents. This information was available for several hours and accessible to interested parties. The data has since been taken offline.
The error arose when the police received a request from the Freedom of Information (FOI) law. This law allows citizens to request non-privacy-sensitive government data comparable to our country’s Open Government Act (Woo).
The Northern Ireland police were asked to compile a list of how many people work for the organization and what their position is. Due to human error, a table containing the names of agents was sent. The document did not mention the residential addresses of the agents and other employees.
‘Valuable information can cause irreparable damage.’
The data breach is very sensitive for the police union. Police officers in Northern Ireland have been the target of attacks by Catholic nationalists in the past. Even after signing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which ended violence between Protestants and Catholics, police officers are still regularly targeted by the militant organization The New IRA. Last February, for example, a detective was shot in front of his son.
“Strong precautions should have been taken to protect this valuable information which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could cause irreparable damage. The men and women I represent are shocked by this intrusion. They are shocked, appalled and justifiably angry. Like me, they are demanding action to address this unprecedented disclosure of sensitive information,” said the president of the police union in response.
Supervisor informed about data breach
“We have notified the organization of the incident and are aware of the concern it will raise for many of our colleagues and families. We will do everything we can to address these concerns,” the assistant chief of police said in a statement.
He says he takes the matter very seriously. The investigation into the leak is still ongoing. The incident has been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the privacy watchdog.