Hacker steals and publishes police force data

Updated: 

Hertfordshire police headquartersDominic Lipinski/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A hacker claims to have hacked into phone numbers, login details and passwords of a number of police officers in the Hertfordshire Safer Neighbourhoods team, and has posted what he says are details from the database online.

It's another worrying weakness in a system that ought to be bullet-proof, but is this anything for us to worry about?



The hack

The hacker is thought to be a supporter of Julian Assange, after adding OpFreeAssange to the details published online. He also clarified that he was not a member of hacker group 'Anonymous'.

Hertfordshire Police has confirmed that information from an 'externally hosted' database had been published online. It has also taken down a section of its website, which it says is a precaution.

It said in a statement: "As a precaution these pages have been temporarily disabled whilst the circumstances as to how this information was obtained is investigated."

"There is absolutely no suggestion that any personal data relating to officers or members of the public has been, or could have been compromised."

"Nevertheless matters of IT security are extremely important to the Constabulary and an investigation is already under way."

Concerns

The hack itself was not groundbreaking, and poses no risk to the broader public. The hacker himself wrote next to the published details that "This is nothing big". However, he added: "this tells how insecure the Web is."

The danger is that we give out personal details to all sorts of businesses - both online and in the real world - which they then keep online. We have no way of determining how safely this data is stored, and which hackers are interested in breaking into it, or whether we are protected.

Protect yourself

We have a choice: either we stop giving out personal details and effectively come offline, or we take whatever precautions we can. This starts with taking care over passwords.

According Lloyds TSB Internet banking a fifth of the population (20 per cent) say they have chosen passwords as obvious as their own name and almost three quarters (71 per cent) admit to using the same password for several websites. Matthew Timms, Internet banking director, Lloyds TSB, said: "A password needs to be yours and yours alone."

He suggests choosing 'strong' passwords for any sites you use and change them regularly. Use a combination of letters and numbers and avoid using words that may be easy for others to guess (such as the name of a family member or pet).

Do not tell anyone else your passwords - do not write them down or store them on your computer. If you think someone else knows your password, change it immediately - most websites will allow you to change your personal information.

Always log off when you have finished using a site and close your browser to prevent others gaining access to any personal details online.

Be aware that you cannot be assured of the security of a computer in a public place e.g. an Internet café. If you have any reason to be suspicious about a publicly accessible computer, then do not access facilities such as internet banking from that machine. And don't choose or change your passwords on a computer or in a public place such as an Internet café.

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