OVER 2,000 people have been affected by a data-breach because of their participation in a scheme run by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

The affected people include participants on the FODC employability initiative programme, Anspire from 2015 until March 2023. When asked by The Impartial Reporter how many were impacted by this cyber security incident, a spokeperson from FODC confirmed that 2,469 individuals were impacted and no other FODC schemes were impacted

A concerned Aspireparticipant contacted this newspaper on Monday morning regarding the cyber-crime and subsequent data breach. He warned that some of the data entered on the system by participants included; names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth and national insurance numbers.

It is understood that limited medical information was also stored on this third-party system.

The participant who did not wish to be named said: “I am concerned that some people who took part in the programme are vulnerable and may not be aware of the scale of this data being breached.

"I think the Council need to compensate people and run a credit report or a membership of a credit report service so that they can have alerts if their data is being used.”

The participant was also concerned that the seriousness of a data-breach was not emphasised in the communications from FODC.

The Aspire Employability Programme, an employability initiative was delivered in partnership with the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Education Authority and delivery partner Fermanagh Rural Community Initiative.

The programme primarily worked with and supported people who are unemployed or working less than 16 hours a week to get back into employment or retrain for a job in a new industry.

Confirming the incident in a statement, a spokesperson for FODC said: “FODC has been made aware that a third-party company, Evide Impact Limited, who processes data on behalf of the Council has recently been impacted by a cyber-security incident.

“The Council wishes to stress that none of the Council’s own systems have been affected. The Council is continuing to liaise with the third-party company, a Cyber-Security Insurance team and the PSNI in relation to the matter to ascertain the extent of the impact, and to mitigate against any further impact.”

A spokesperson for FODC detailed some of the steps taken by FODC since the data breach: “The Council has reported the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office and is complying with the associated requirements in this regard. The Council is informing all of those affected by the incident and is providing useful information on steps they may wish to take as a precaution. The Council has also informed the partner organisations.

“The external company which was the victim of the cyber attack has been working with cyber-security specialists to restore the system securely. They have advised the Council that they have no evidence of further misuse of the data at this stage.”

When asked by this newspaper has steps been taking to reassure or compensate service users, a spokesperson for FODC said: “All those affected have been contacted via email or by post. The letter states that further to the breach, the company's systems were made secure, and that there is no evidence to date that the data has been shared further.

“The PSNI are also involved in the investigation. The letter also gave people some advice on being vigilant regarding suspicious emails, texts or calls.