Police in Northern Ireland have declared a “critical incident” after a “significant” data breach relating to all its staff.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) earlier apologised for the self-inflicted security breach after it inadvertently published the information in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on Tuesday.
The breach involved the surname, initials, the rank or grade, the work location and departments of all PSNI staff, but did not involve the officers’ and civilians’ private addresses.
PSNI said its chief constable Simon Byrne is cutting his family holiday short to deal with the crisis and is expected to answer questions from politicians.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said: “As a service we are acutely aware of the seriousness of this breach and have declared it to be a critical incident. We fully understand the very real concerns being felt by our colleagues and their families and we are working hard to do everything we can to mitigate any risk. We are working with our security partners and organisations to investigate this incident.
“We have issued updated personal security advice to all of our officers and staff and have established an emergency threat assessment group that will look at the welfare concerns of our people. As well as general advice on safety and security this multi-disciplinary group will focus on immediate support to those with specific circumstances which they believe place them or their families at immediate risk or increased threat of harm.
“We have also sought the assistance of an Independent Advisor to conduct an end to end review of our processes in order to understand what happened, how it happened and what we can do immediately to prevent such a breach happening in the future.
“This is an extremely serious situation. The Chief Constable is cutting his family holiday short and returning to Northern Ireland to attend tomorrow’s special sitting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board. We will continue to keep the Information Commissioner’s Office updated as the investigation continues.”
The UK Information Commissioner’s office said on Tuesday it was investigating the breach while “working with the PSNI to establish the level of risk and mitigations”.