A DUP MLA has warned gun owners in Northern Ireland to be “extra vigilant”, after a major data breach at an online gun trading website.
Trevor Clarke said the PSNI confirmed to him that 803 customers of the Guntrader.uk website in Northern Ireland have been affected by the breach, which saw thousands of names and addresses across the UK published to the so-called dark web.
Offering guns for sale across the UK, Guntrader.uk said they learned of the breach on Monday July 19, before notifying the Information Commissioner's Office.
They said around 100,000 customer records were stolen but "no information relating to gun ownership or the location of firearms was taken".
The PSNI said on Friday an investigation led by the South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit in South West England is now under way in relation to the website security website.
Gun ownership is tightly controlled in the UK, making guns difficult to acquire, and potentially valuable on the black market.
‘‘The scale of this security breach is deeply alarming,” said Mr Clarke.
“I will be encouraging the PSNI to work closely and proactively with partners including the National Crime Agency to find those responsible, identify their intentions and minimise any risks for customers locally who have been left exposed by the release of this information on the dark web.
“Gun ownership in Northern Ireland and indeed right across the United Kingdom is highly regulated.
“That inevitably means that for those with sinister criminal or terrorist motives the leaking of personal data belonging to those who have either been selling or buying firearms may be seized on as an opportunity to illegally and dangerously acquire weapons.
“It is vital that the relevant law enforcement agencies take this matter seriously, particularly given the enduring threat posed by terrorist elements and organised crime group across our province.
“It is also key that there is effective and regular communication with the 803 customers affected.
“Finally, I would repeat the advice given by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) that gun owners should take extra steps to check their home security and exercise additional caution in locking away firearms at this time.’’
In a statement published on its website, Guntrader.uk said personal data had been listed on "on a hackers' website".
"Our advice to members would be to check home security and be extra vigilant. Make sure all firearms are appropriately locked away and make sure buildings are kept secure,” they added.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “The PSNI is providing support and assistance to the investigation and would ask anyone affected by this incident to remain vigilant with regard to the security of their firearms and to report any suspicious activity to police immediately on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”