Disastrous PSNI data breach this week sees dissident republicans claiming to have information from the leak, chief constable admits
The fallout from the self-inflicted data breach at the Police Service Of Northern Ireland (PSNI) this week continues.
According to Sky News, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has admitted that dissident republicans are now claiming to be in possession of leaked PSNI information – which potentially places the lives of police officers in NI at risk.
On Tuesday this week, every police officer in Northern Ireland had their names and departmental locations exposed in a self-inflicted data breach.
The monumental data breach occurred after the surnames and initials of current police officers, and civilian staff members, alongside the location and department they work in, were mistakenly released in a spreadsheet in response to a Freedom of Information Request (FoI).
In total 345,000 pieces of data about the PSNI entire workforce was published online for roughly three hours before it was taken down. This information potentially impacts more than 10,000 people.
Chief Constable Simon Byrne updated reporters after taking questions at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
He said he was “deeply sorry” for the “industrial scale breach of data that has gone into the public domain”, describing it as an “unprecedented crisis.”
An “early worst-case scenario that we have been dealing with is that third parties would attempt to get this data, to intimidate, corrupt, or indeed cause harm to our officers and staff”, the chief constable was quoted as saying by Sky News.
“We are now aware that dissident republicans claim to be in possession of some of this information circulating on WhatsApp,” he reportedly added. “As we speak, we are advising officers and staff about how to deal with that and any further risk that they may face.”
The chief constable said that PSNI had so far not been able to verify the dissident republican claim.
However the PSNI is reportedly considering whether some officers need to be moved from their usual places of work, and the breach “raises quite legitimate concerns for our workforce”, Byrne was quoted as saying.
Others may have unusual surnames that could lead to early identification, he added, while certain officers have been advised to come off social media.
The Economist meanwhile reported that the PSNI data breach has also exposed the names of intelligence officers working at ports and airports, as well as bodyguards, judges, surveillance officers, and almost 40 police officers at MI5’s Northern Ireland HQ – some of whom work in a clandestine unit.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland was formerly known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) until 2001.
During the Troubles, the RUC suffered 319 police officers killed and almost 9,000 injured in paramilitary assassinations or attacks by Republican terrorists.
So far two PSNI police officers have been killed by terrorist attacks.
But the risks of being a PSNI police officer were demonstrated in February this year, when dissident republicans linked to the New IRA, approached a police officer as he finished coaching a children’s football team, shot him several times, and left him for dead.
Fortunately that police officer survived, but he suffered life changing injuries.