150,000 arrest records accidentally deleted from police database

Early investigations have ruled out a cyber attack and instead point to human error

A technical issue has resulted in 150,000 arrest records being accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer system, used by law enforcement organisations across the UK to store and share criminal records.

The lost data included fingerprints, DNA, as well as arrest histories.

Malicious activity, such as a cyber attack, has reportedly been ruled out, and the Home Office has said it is “working at pace with law enforcement partners” to assess the impact of the incident.

It also said that the deleted data did not include the details of wanted criminals, but was in relation to “people arrested and released where no further action had been taken”.

However, the shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the incident as an “extraordinarily serious security breach that presents huge dangers for public safety”.

He also called on home secretary Priti Patel to provide a statement “outlining the true scale of the issue”.

“It’s not good enough for the home secretary to hide behind her junior minister on this when there has been such a major security breach on her watch,” said Thomas-Symonds. “The incompetence of this shambolic government cannot be allowed to put people at risk, let criminals go free and deny victims justice.”

Ezat Dayeh, systems engineer manager at data management company Cohesity, raised questions as to how the data was inadvertently lost.

“It is hard to believe that there is no protection, no backup and no policies that would prevent this kind of data being lost. If they have only just discovered the deletion, then they should be able to recover this data within hours. If not, and if their backup doesn’t stretch back far enough, then questions need to be asked,” he said.

“Human error, ransomware or even something as innocent as accidental deletion or a power failure can lead to files not being accessible," added Dayeh. "But organisations should be regularly backing up their files and verifying that all that data is secure and usable. It’s not just a best practice in data management or an IT issue, it’s an organisational must and a compliance measure that is often required by law."

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