EU police agency blames human error for data security breach

November 30, 2016 by Mike Corder
In this Feb. 22, 2016 file photo, the Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. European Union police agency Europol on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 blamed human error for a breach of its data security rules by a former staff member that reportedly led to dossiers containing information about terrorism investigations becoming visible online. (AP Photo/Mike Corder, File)

European Union police agency Europol on Wednesday blamed human error for a breach of its data security rules by a former staff member that reportedly led to dossiers containing information about terrorism investigations becoming visible online.

Dutch investigative television show Zembla reported that a Europol staffer—in a breach of the agency's tight security rules—took dossiers home and copied them to a backup drive that was linked to the internet.

The breach could undermine faith in the organization among EU member states that share highly sensitive intelligence with Europol as a way of boosting continentwide investigations into terrorism and organized crime.

"This leak damages trust in Europol and trust in information exchange, which is our top priority in the security agenda," said Sophie in 't Veld of the ALDE liberal group in the European Parliament. "Information sharing is essential for security."

The liberal bloc called on Europol Director Rob Wainwright and European Commissioner Julian King, whose portfolio includes security, to explain the situation to the European Parliament.

In a statement, Europol sought to allay concerns, saying that the organization "adheres to the highest standards of data security, including continuous security briefings provided to staff members."

But it conceded that "human error is the weakest link when it comes to the intersection of staff, data, and technology."

Zembla said it found more than 700 pages of confidential police dossiers that mention European terrorism investigations on the drive, including the names and phone numbers of people linked to terror investigations. Among the investigations mentioned was the probe into the deadly Madrid train bombings in 2004 that killed 191 people.

Europol said the breach related to "sensitive information dating from around 10 years ago."

The Hague-based organization added that it is investigating the breach and had immediately informed member states involved in the investigations.

"As of today, there is no indication that an investigation has been jeopardized, due to the compromise of this historical data," the organization said in a statement. "Europol will continue to assess the impact of the data in question, together with concerned member states."

Explore further: Europol: Ransomware now top cybercrime threat

Related Stories

Europol: Ransomware now top cybercrime threat

September 28, 2016

European police agency Europol says the threat from ransomware has now eclipsed other forms of online theft, a sign of how quickly the computer-scrambling software has found favor in the electronic underworld.

Europol closes 4,500 websites peddling fake brands

November 28, 2016

In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday.

NYC transit agency has data breach

March 13, 2014

The personal information of approximately 15,000 New York City Transit Authority workers has been found on a compact disc inside a refurbished computer sold by a retailer.

12 arrests in Europe for Trojan horse cybercrime

December 14, 2015

The European police agency Europol said Monday it has backed national forces in a two-week crackdown on cybercrime mostly by tech-savvy youngsters, leading to 12 arrests in France, Norway and Romania.

Recommended for you

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.