Northern Ireland news

Demands for full investigation into 'shocking' data breach

SDLP justice and policing spokesperson Dolores Kelly. Picture by Mal McCann

THERE have been calls for a "rigorous investigation" into a major PSNI data breach that has resulted in hundreds of pages of private citizens' details being placed into the hands of loyalists.

The Irish News revealed yesterday that the digital files, including internet passwords, were unintentionally given to loyalists under investigation by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force and National Crime Agency.

Police initially said they had received "no report" of any missing equipment, which would usually be made through the PSNI's reporting and security standards for staff and officers.

However, the force confirmed yesterday that a specialist team had been put together to investigate the major security breach.

The blunder is thought to have occurred after devices removed from loyalist suspects for examination were returned with a pen drive attached, containing personal details of private citizens and a number of locally-based businesses.

The information includes encrypted police files alongside accessible files with hundreds of pages of private data, including email exchanges, addresses and passwords.

Both the Police Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner's Office have been made aware of the data breach.


The Information Commissioner 's Office said: "Organisations have a legal duty to ensure the security of any personal data they hold.

"We have been made aware of an incident reported in the media this morning and are making enquiries."

The Police Ombudsman's office said it was "in discussions with the Information Commissioner's Office about this matter".

Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon said she was seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable George Hamilton and the Police Ombudsman.

"This scale and nature of this breach is shocking and will cause huge concern to those affected," she said.

"I will be demanding a rigorous investigation into this scandal. People deserve answers and they need to know that measures will be taken to ensure this never happens again.

"Those affected also need reassurance that whatever steps are required to ensure their safety are put in place."

SDLP policing spokesperson Dolores Kelly also described the reports as "alarming" and said she had been in contact with police and was assured a full investigation would be carried out.

"The SDLP now await a more fulsome statement from the PSNI to allay public fears and to clarify their action plan to get to the bottom of this potential security breach," she said.

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