Northern Ireland police confirm breached data in hands of dissident republicans

Authorities have confirmed that dissident republicans are in possession of breached Northern Ireland police data. 

Speaking on Monday, Chief Constable Simon Byrne said the information – which comprises the surnames, first initials, ranks and units of more than 10,000 Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) employees – is at risk of being used to ‘intimidate or target officers and staff.’

It has been reported this includes the identities of people working in sensitive areas, like surveillance and intelligence. 

Chief Constable Byrne added the force is ‘working round the clock to assess [the] risk’ of dissident paramilitaries using the ‘industrial-scale’ breach of personal data to create ‘fear and uncertainty.’

Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) Liam Kelly also urged all force members to exercise ‘maximum vigilance.’

He said: ‘We must do all we can to frustrate and prevent attacks on our colleagues and their families.’

He added: ‘We have to be strong and determined to do everything we can to minimise risk and that means varying the routes we take to and from work, changing routines and re-assessing our personal security both on and off duty.’

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The breach was first reported last Tuesday, described then by Assistant Chief Chris Todd as both ‘monumental’ and ‘unacceptable.’

Mr Todd further said measures were taken ‘quickly’ once the data-compromise incident was brought to the PSNI’s attention, and that there were ‘no immediate security concerns.’ 

It later emerged that a police laptop, radio, and document containing the names of more than 200 serving officers and staff, had already been stolen from a police vehicle in Newtownabbey, near Belfast, on July 6. 

Earlier in March, the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland was raised to ‘severe’, indicating that an attack is highly likely, following the shooting of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell by republican paramilitaries.

The high-profile officer, who was off-duty at the time, suffered life-altering injuries.

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