The emotional impact of the PFEW data breach should not be underestimated

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In 2019, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) suffered a severe data breach after a ransomware attack. Over 120,000 members had their data exposed when the PFEW lost control of its systems. As a result, the names, email addresses, NI numbers, ranks and serving forces of around 120,000 police officers were exposed.

Guests who stayed at the PFEW conference and hotel facilities in Leatherhead between 1 September 2018 and 9 March 2019 may also have had their details put at risk. In addition, members who requested PFEW assistance for any investigation, inquiry or complaint could have had their name, address, National Insurance number, and bank details accessed.

The breach is a clear and serious infringement of data protection laws and a massive violation of officer trust and safety.

Following the PFEW data breach, our firm launched a group action to hold the PFEW to account for failing to implement the reasonable and robust processes necessary to keep its members’ data safe. If you are a police officer in England & Wales, you could claim data breach compensation.

The consequences of a data breach can be devastating

It’s important to recognise and understand the potential consequences of a data breach. Especially if we are ever going to see those organisations we trust to look after our sensitive information taking their data security obligations seriously.

Data breaches can be financially devastating, and some officers did have their bank details compromised in this attack. And the risk doesn’t stop with immediate fraudulent activity on credit/bank cards.

Where cybercriminals are involved in a breach, it is not uncommon to become the target of attempted phishing scams as this data regularly gets sold and used for nefarious purposes. Because stolen data is often used in batches over time, financial losses might not be immediately apparent. This can leave people worrying about what might happen and when.

Many people have experienced psychological distress following the PFEW data breach

The emotional impact of the PFEW data breach should not be underestimated. We all know the impact that theft can have on a person. Following a burglary, people often feel shock, anger, fear, helplessness, and panic. These feelings might develop immediately or be experienced much later. Cybercriminals are committing theft when they steal personal data, so it is understandable that some people feel upset; particularly as the PFEW effectively gave the burglar the keys.

According to Victim Support:

“The effects of crime can also last for a long time, and it doesn’t depend on how ‘serious’ the crime was. Some people cope really well with the most horrific crimes while others can be very distressed by a more minor incident”.

For some members, the PFEW data breach has caused or exacerbated anxiety, stress and other psychological conditions. Even if the stolen information is never used, simply knowing that your sensitive details are in the hands of cybercriminals can cause considerable distress – especially given the nature of the job. Many of the officers who have contacted us so far about this breach have suffered significant emotional harm and we are helping them to get the justice and compensation they deserve.

"Police officers deserve to have the highest possible level of protection when it comes to their valuable personal data. Criminals could use this extremely sensitive information to cause serious harm. “The impact of the PFEW’s data protection failure has had a significant effect on those affected, and the lack of care shown by the federation after the incident has raised further questions about what happened. We are helping a significant number of police federation members who have been notified that they are affected by the data protection failure, and we can help you too.”

Make a PFEW data breach claim

We would encourage anyone involved in the PFEW data violation to talk to our specialists and find out how we can help. Any members who wish to invite friends and colleagues to join this action can do so when signing up.

In March 2024, our firm changed its name to KP Law. 

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