Monday 16 December 2019

'Was children's data stolen in FAI hacking incident', asks worried Rock

FAI is under mounting pressure to answer questions about the hacking incident. Photo: Frank McGrath
FAI is under mounting pressure to answer questions about the hacking incident. Photo: Frank McGrath

The FAI is facing mounting pressure over the weekend data breach.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who is on the Oireachtas Sports Committee, told the Herald that TDs are concerned children's data could have been caught up in the incident.

The FAI did not respond to a request for clarification on the matter last night.

Gardai confirmed they are investigating the breach.

It is the latest blow for the association as it struggles with the fallout of former chief executive John Delaney's controversial €100,000 bridging loan to his employers in 2017.


Mr Delaney is currently sidelined from his recently created role as the FAI's executive vice president pending the outcome of no fewer than six reviews into the affairs of the association.

TDs from the sports committee outlined their concerns over the hacking incident.

The Data Protection Commission said it was not notified about the incident until this week, despite the suspected attack happening at the weekend.

"We are examining the incident at present," it said.

Mr Rock said the Sports Committee raised concerns that, because of the amount of children's data the FAI has with teams, tournaments and sports camps, it may have been accessed during the hack.

"Clarity from the FAI on this would be most welcome and full scrutiny from the Data Protection Commissioner is necessary," he said.

Sports Committee chairperson Fergus O'Dowd said the FAI "must give those answers".

"Obviously, sensitive information on children should be especially protected, so I would be concerned about it," he said.

Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy said he was concerned that anyone's data would be compromised.

"Obviously children are a lot more vulnerable," he said.


He added that the FAI needed to investigate what data had been breached and make sure that it was "obtained, retrieved and destroyed".

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said people need to know exactly what the nature of the breach was, and there is an obligation on the FAI to be open about what information was compromised.

She said that when hacking incidents take place they must be disclosed to the people who may be at risk of their information being used so they know they need to protect themselves. Members of the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau are looking into the incident.

The Data Protection Commission is also investigating.

The FAI confirmed that email services at the troubled football body were affected by the attack.

It is understood the breach happened early on Saturday.

Staff have lost historical emails as a result of the hacking, and the FAI could not confirm for certain that all emails will be restored.

Some staff have only been able to access emails from the last two to three days.

The Herald understands that the FAI's own IT department has since called in outside experts to determine exactly what happened.

The details of the nature of the breach remain unclear as forensic scientists were called on to the site at Abbotstown, over the weekend.

When asked if it had been made aware of the breach, a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) said it is unable to comment on individual cases.


Speaking at the pre-match press conference in Copenhagen ahead of Ireland's Euro2020 qualifier against Denmark, he said: "There's a few hacks in here.

"I do not have an FAI email address, so it is not affecting me.

"But Cathal has been busy," he said, referring to FAI press director Cath- al Dervan.

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