Precise location of more than 110,000 gun owners published online
The South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit, supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA), has launched a criminal investigation into how the names, emails and home addresses of more than 110,000 firearms owners in the UK came to be posted online.
Criminals first hacked into the Guntrader website, used for buying and selling firearms, in July but the latest iteration of the data has been made available as a file that provides the exact locations of the individuals as part of a Google Earth map.
A posting made earlier this week on the block of an animal rights group states that the data is available in a way that enables people to “contact as many [gun owners] as you can in your area and ask them if they are involved in shooting animals”.
The leaked information presents a severe risk not only to British firearm and shotgun certificate holders but also anyone who moved house to one of the addresses mentioned, as some of the data in the stolen database is up to five years old and could be out of date.
There are concerns that these properties could be targeted for robberies and burglaries. Police have previously issued warnings to the licensed firearms community emphasising personal safety after a spate of robberies targeting licensed firearms owners outside their homes and at rifle ranges.
The names, home addresses, postcodes, phone numbers, email addresses and IP addresses of a total of 111,295 are listed in the breach – a number which represents around one in five of all registered firearms owners in the UK.
The high level of risk posed by the leak means it may fall under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes it a crime to collate “information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. Breaching section 58 is punishable with 15 years in prison.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation said: “We are concerned about this latest development and have flagged those concerns to the NCA. In the meantime, we advise the shooting community to maintain vigilance around security and report any concerns to the police.”
A NCA spokesperson said: “The NCA is aware that information has been published online as a result of a recent data breach which impacted Guntrader. We are working closely with the South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit who are leading the criminal investigation, to support the organisation and manage any risk.”