Another British Police Force Leaks Confidential Data

The personal information about thousands of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers' has been hacked by a cyber attack on the Stockport company used by the police to produce the force’s warrant cards. The obvious suspicion is that the details of officers’ name badges, including their ranks, photos and serial numbers, may have been taken by hackers. 

GMP confirmed it was aware of a ransomware attack on a local company that supplies digital ID cards that was being taken “extremely seriously”. The National Crime Agency is understood to have launched an investigation into the breach, which is the third involving a large UK police force in the last few weeks.

The hack means thousands of police officers' names are at risk of being placed in the public domain. Assistant Chief Constable Colin McFarlane said he understood how concerning the matter was. “We are aware of a ransomware attack affecting a third-party supplier of various UK organisations, including GMP, which holds some information on those employed by GMP.

At this stage, it’s not believed this data includes financial information, McFarlane said. "We understand how concerning this is for our employees so, as we work to understand any impact on GMP, we have contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office and are doing everything we can to ensure employees are kept informed, their questions are answered and they feel supported. This is being treated extremely seriously, with a nationally led criminal investigation into the attack.”

This comes just over a month after a serious data breach at the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In that incident, surnames and initials of 10,000 police employees were accidentally included in a response to a Freedom of Information request. The details were then published online before being removed. 

Paul Holland, CEO of Beyond Encryption commented “While the details of this incident are yet to be revealed, it is of great concern that we’re seeing another attack impact the police force so recently after the data breach suffered by the PSNI, placing the personal information of police officers at risk yet again..."

Knowing that the identities of undercover officers are now in the hands of unknown threat actors is an unacceptable breach of policing staff trust, and could be dangerous for both them and the citizens they protect.

"Organisations must ensure that they have robust safeguarding measures in place to mitigate these attacks in future or we risk more personal data falling into the wrong hands.” Holland concluded.

Last month, the Metropolitan Police was also put on alert after a similar security breach involving one of its suppliers. Ed Gibson, a former FBI investigator who also headed cyber security at Microsoft UK, said any report of hacking of law enforcement data was "extremely worrying". "You don't want this stuff falling into the wrong hands," he added.

Gibson advises that any company facing a ransom demand should "get it investigated, don't pay up". This kind of extortion is very lucrative for criminals, he said, adding: "It used to be a horse's head in the bed now it's an email to your IT department."

Greater Manchester Police:     BBC:     Guardian:     Sky:    Metro:     Independent:     Punch

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