PSNI 'confident' data breach list in hands of dissident republicans

The PSNI is "confident" the data list of officers and staff published in error last week is in the hands of dissident republicans.

The Police Federation described the latest development as "deeply worrying".

Simon Byrne said their investigation was moving "at pace" and they were working "around the clock" to assess the risk.

Mr Byrne said dissidents would use the list to generate "fear and uncertainty as well as intimidating and threatening officers and staff".

He paid tribute to officers and staff for demonstrating “tremendous resolve and resilience” since the data leak. He said they were not seeing any movement of officers or staff out of the organisation.

“We are obviously investigating where we think this leak went but we’ve said from last week there was an assumption that this would get into the wrong hands, and we’re now just confirming that.”

He said the PSNI “will continue to adapt our posture and our tactics as the information changes”.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, has said he is in close contact with Mr Byrne and his senior team over the matter.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “The UK Government remains committed to providing specialist support and expertise, and I know that PSNI and security partners will continue to take proportionate action to protect officers and staff and their families.”

Earlier on Monday, Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly described as “sinister” the posting of a document, purporting to be part of the data leak, on a wall facing his party offices on the Falls Road in Belfast.

Mr Kelly said the document, with the names of officers removed, was posted on the wall overnight alongside his photo and a threatening message.

He said it was a "very obvious attempt by dissident republicans to intimidate me".

Mr Byrne said measures had been put in place to advise all members of the workforce, but the PSNI had not “caught up” with 45 members at the start of Monday. He said the data did not contain information on retired colleagues.

Asked about financial supports for the safety of civilian staff, Chief Constable Simon Byrne said a £500 allowance had been under review for some time but “was based on a previous set of circumstances”.

“All I can say at the moment is that we are working actively with the UK Government and have a green light for support if we need to take new measures to protect people and keep officers, staff and their families safe.”

Asked if this would involve additional finances, he said: “I think if we need to look at finances for protecting our workforce and staff, I’m confident the UK Government is standing by for the ask.”

Mr Byrne said the safety and welfare of staff remains his “top priority”

“Weekend events have shown their determination to stick to our values and continue to serve the public with commitment and professionalism. We have been strongly supported by a range of cyber specialists from across the policing system in dealing with this unprecedented incident.

“We have measures in place to reassure and advise our workforce of what this risk means for them. We will continue to liaise with the policing board and the UK Government as well as other partners as we develop our response to this matter.”

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said officers and staff are able to contact the organisation through an online service where they will be triaged based on a risk assessment.

“We’re also giving online advice and in terms of the worry and anxiety, a service will be starting tomorrow with our operational occupational health and welfare colleagues to support people who are suffering anxiety and stress.

“You will recognize this as a fast paced and developing incident and as we know more, we will adapt our advice and indeed our support in relation to what people need to get through this incident.”

Police Federation chairman Liam Kelly said it was a “deeply worrying development” that dissident republicans had information from a PSNI data breach.

He said: “Our men and women are resilient and resourceful. They must call on all their training and professionalism to counter this ugly consequence of a monumental data breach.

“Even though we believed from the outset the data would find its way into the hands of people intent on murdering or maiming our colleagues, it is obviously a deeply worrying development.

“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.

“We can thwart the consequences of the violent dissident threat and rhetoric, but it will require an all-out effort by each and every one of us.”

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