Saturday

4th Dec 2021

Europol in massive data breach on terrorism probes

  • Europol says the breach is due to human error. (Photo: Europol)

Names and telephone numbers of suspects in terrorism probes carried out by the EU police agency Europol have been posted online by accident.

The Hague-based agency, which coordinates police efforts across the EU, told this website on Wednesday (30 November) that an ex-staff member had taken the data home in contravention of security protocols.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The concerned former staff member, who is an experienced police officer from a national authority, uploaded Europol data to a private storage device while still working at Europol, in clear contravention to Europol policy," said Jan Op Gen Oorth, a spokesman from the agency, in an email.

He said the cases related to the breach are a decade old and that all involved EU states have been notified.

Dutch TV programme Zembla, aired by public broadcasters Vara and NPS, which first reported the breach, said the agent had inadvertently published information about 54 different police investigations. The programme had reportedly informed the agency of the files some two months ago.

The breach spanned over 700 pages of data. Europol says most pages contain public information and that those that were not public have not had any affect on ongoing investigations.

"Individual mistake by ex-staff, yes, some data yes, but most information is public anyway and of those that were not public, no ongoing investigation has been jeopardised," said Op Gen Oorth.

But Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in ’t Veld wants Europol's director Rob Wainwright and the EU commissioner in charge of security, Julian King, to explain the leak before the EU parliament.

“This is extremely shocking. Europol was aware of this security incident since September, yet its director decided not to inform the parliament during a joint meeting of the European Parliament and the national parliaments on Europol scrutiny just two days ago," she said.

The breach poses larger questions about data protection standards of an agency, whose investigative powers are set to expand next May. Leaked information may also strain relations with other EU states, who may be reluctant to share data if it is not properly secured.

The new rules will make it easier for the agency, which employs over 600, to set up so-called specialised units. Those units are likely to work a lot closer with intelligence agencies in an effort crack down on terrorism and crime.

Europol is helping police track down terrorists and other criminals. It maintains a terrorist database, known as Focal Travellers Point, to help coordinate their efforts. The database contains information on some 34,000 people, including foreign fighters.

The agency had also processed some 80 terabytes of data in the aftermath of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.

UK to remain in Europol for now

The British government has announced it will opt in to the EU police agency's new regulation after May 2017

Investigation

EU states copy Israel's 'predictive policing'

Israelis are using social profiling and predictive policing, also known as 'Facebook arrests', to crack down on suspects in Palestinian territories. National authorities in the EU, including the EU's police agency, Europol, are now applying the tactics closer to home.

EU intelligence agency not a priority

Julian King, the EU commissioner for security, says talk of an EU intelligence agency would be a distraction from more pressing coounter-terrorism work.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

News in Brief

  1. Covid: Belgium might close schools and cultural activities
  2. EU consumers can sue Facebook, judge advised
  3. French centre-right tilts toward Pécresse
  4. EU urged to blacklist Israeli spyware firm
  5. Austria's ex-chancellor Kurz quits politics
  6. EU agency: Omicron to be over half of infections 'within months'
  7. New German restrictions target the unvaccinated
  8. EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium tightens Covid rules as health system 'is cracking'
  2. EU and US tighten screw on Lukashenko
  3. Belgian impasse leaves asylum seekers on snowy streets
  4. EU 'missed chance' to set fossil-fuel subsidies deadline
  5. EU energy ministers clash amid gas price uncertainty
  6. ECJ told to dismiss Poland and Hungary rule-of-law challenge
  7. Covid: what Germany got right - and wrong
  8. Quick Take: Enrico Letta

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us