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UK Police stations reveal the extent of data breaches

  • New FOI request reveals the true number of data breaches specific UK police stations have faced since 2016, potentially due to a lack of cybersecurity measures.

  • Lancashire Police recorded the most data breaches, with 1,300 compromises.

  • Metropolitan Police recorded zero data breaches.

 

There have been countless reports of cybercriminals stealing our personal data from huge companies across the UK. But it’s not just private corporations who feel the full force of data breaches.

New data has revealed that government institutions are also constantly facing sensitive information being compromised, including the police.

But it’s not just hackers. Human error can result in sensitive information being compromised, with wrong files being shared with the wrong people, breaching data protection.

To find out the true extent of data breaches can have on our public services, VPNOverview has revealed just how affected UK police are.

They sent a Freedom of Information request to 45 police stations across the UK, asking them how many data breaches they had from 2016 up to 2020 and in 2021 so far. Of all contacted, 31 have responded, revealing just how affected they are by data breaches.

In just the first four months of 2021, four stations informed VPNOverview that they had 135 data breaches overall.

However, Metropolitan Police responded to the FOI request, reporting that they had not had a single data breach since 2016, alongside Dorset Police station.

 

Police Station

Data Breaches in 2021

Sussex Police

62

West Midlands Police

37

North Wales Police

24

Wiltshire Constabulary

12

 

Since 2016, the station with the most recorded amount of data breaches was Lancashire Constabulary, with a staggering 1,300 cases. In 2020 alone, the force experienced 594 instances in which sensitive data was compromised.

They’re not alone though. 21 stations recorded 2386 data breaches the same year.

 

Police Station

Data Breaches in 2020

Lancashire Constabulary

594

Sussex Police

334

Humberside Police

230

Police Service of Northern Ireland

194

Durham Constabulary

125

West Midlands Police

119

Leicestershire Constabulary

118

Hertfordshire Constabulary

108

North Wales Police

89

Avon and Somerset Constabulary

86

Surrey Police

83

Gwent Police

78

Wiltshire Constabulary

74

Cleveland Police

45

Bedfordshire Police

39

Merseyside Police

31

Staffordshire Police

25

City of London Police

5

Warwickshire Police

2

South Yorkshire Police

2

Police Scotland

1

 

Additionally, three police stations shared their information broken into financial years. Hampshire Constabulary experienced one data breach in the past financial year, Thames Valley Police four, and Cheshire Constabulary recorded 289 data breaches during the last financial year.

The FOI response from the Police of Northern Ireland also recorded a higher than average number of private documents being compromised, after 928 data breaches occurred at the station since 2016.

Other stations also reported back that they had experienced more data breaches than other areas in the UK.

Humberside Police recorded 534 instances, Durham Constabulary with 443 and the West Midlands Police with 364.

VPNOverview’s David Janssen said: “Whether it’s cybercriminals or human error, unprotected documents are always at an increased risk of being compromised.

“Sensitive information should always be encrypted, and strong cybersecurity measures should be taken to ensure information is protected.

“Password protection and authentication processes can avoid and minimise the impact of human error. These systems can also make it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to documents that the police are trying to protect.”

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