Dissident republicans are claiming to be in possession of information about Police Service of Northern Ireland officers which was revealed in a data breach, the force’s chief constable has said.
In a press conference, Simon Byrne said he was “deeply sorry” over the “industrial scale breach of data that has gone into the public domain”.
He was speaking after taking questions at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
An “early worst-case scenario that we have been dealing with is that third parties would attempt to get this data, to intimidate, corrupt, or indeed cause harm to our officers and staff”, Mr Byrne said
He added: “We are now aware that dissident republicans claim to be in possession of some of this information circulating on WhatsApp.
“As we speak, we are advising officers and staff about how to deal with that and any further risk that they may face.”
Asked to elaborate, Mr Byrne said his comment about dissident republicans was “a claim” and his force had not yet been able to verify it.
Nor has the PSNI seen any of the “information that dissident republicans assert that they have”.
It is being considered, however, whether some officers need to be moved from their usual places of work.
Others may have unusual surnames that could lead to early identification, Mr Byrne said.
Certain officers have been advised to come off social media.
The force is working “flat out” to get answers to the “questions that are on everybody’s lips” Mr Byrne said.
When asked about his position, Mr Byrne said there had been a “breach of trust” but leadership was “not about walking away”.
Earlier this week, the PSNI declared a “critical incident” after releasing information including the surnames, initials, ranks or grades, work locations and departments of all its staff as part of a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.
The second breach involved stolen documents and a laptop.
There have been calls for Mr Byrne to consider whether he should stay in his job.
Speaking to Sky News, senior DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Mr Byrne should think about whether remaining was “sustainable”.
Liam Kelly, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), said he had been “inundated with calls from worried officers”.