The fallout from the massive data breach at the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) continues, with arrests and even the police chief resigning.

Last month every police officer in Northern Ireland had their names and departmental locations exposed in a self-inflicted data breach.

The monumental data breach of the data of 10,000 PSNI personal occurred when the surnames and initials of current police officers, and civilian staff members, as well as the location and department they work in, were mistakenly released in a spreadsheet in response to a Freedom of Information Request (FoI).

PSNI data breach

Chief Constable Simon Byrne at the time said he was “deeply sorry” for the “industrial scale breach of data that had gone into the public domain”, describing it as an “unprecedented crisis.”

Matters were made worse when it emerged that the PSNI had become aware that dissident republicans claimed to be in possession of some of this information.

The PSNI began considering whether some police officers need to be moved from their usual places of work.

Then this weekend, the BBC reported that two men had been arrested.

The men, aged 21 and 22, were arrested under the Terrorism Act after a search in Portadown, County Armagh, on Saturday.

Police said they had now been released on bail.

In total four arrests have been made in relation to the data breach, the BBC reported.

On 16 August, a 39-year-old was reportedly arrested on suspicion of collection of information likely to be useful to terrorists. He was later released on bail.

A 50-year-old man was also arrested on 18 August and was subsequently charged with terrorism offences.

He appeared in court on 21 August and was remanded in custody for four weeks, the BBC reported.

Chief constable resignation

Now on Tuesday the BBC reported that the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Simon Byrne, had resigned with immediate effect after losing a no confidence vote.

The resignation of Byrne comes just months after he secured a three-year extension to his contract.

Policing Board members reportedly accepted his resignation on Monday, four years after he was appointed to Northern Ireland’s top policing job.

In a statement, Byrne said it was “now time for someone new to lead this proud and resolute organisation.”

Life threatening

The PSNI data breach is significant due to the risk to life it potential brings for police officers in Northern Ireland.

The Economist for example has previously reported that the PSNI data breach had 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.

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.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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