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Date Responded 23 September 2020

Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')

As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.

You asked:

Total number of spam/malicious emails blocked by your organisation over the last 8 months January 2020 – August 2020.  Please break the data down per month.

Please could you also provide a category for the malicious emails e.g. 2,300 phishing emails, 5,000 spam/junk emails, 3,400 anti-virus blocks, 2,000 malware.  Please break the data down per month.

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the ICT Department of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police.

I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows, please note that the data has been provided in such a manner as to avoid the application of a Section 31 exemption.

2020

Anti Spam

Anti Malware

Data Protection

Totals

226,636

1,435

75,081

 

A further breakdown of these figures will not be disclosed and by withholding we shall rely on the below exemption.

S31 (1) Law Enforcement

Section 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and as such there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in its disclosure as well as carrying out a public interest test.

Harm

To disclose information to the public at large as to what we have in place to protect police systems would show criminals what the capacity, tactical abilities and capabilities of the force are, allowing them to target specific areas of the UK to conduct their criminal/terrorist activities by attempting to compromised IT systems and services.  Any information identifying any vulnerabilities could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations.  Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both national security and law enforcement.

Factors favouring disclosure - Section 31

This would enable the public to have a better understanding of the effectiveness of the police and about how the police protect systems used.  It would greatly assist in the quality and accuracy of public debate, which could otherwise be steeped in rumour and speculation.  Where public funds are being spent, there is a public interest in accountability and justifying the use of public money.

Factors against disclosure - Section 31

The release of this type of information would better inform a criminal on how to cyber-attack the police.  If a force was hacked and this lead to their IT systems not working efficiently then a negative impact would occur on the prevention or detection of crime.  Cyber-crime can lead to forces being unable to carry out their objectives.  Northumbria Police would not want to provide information that could lead to criminals being better informed on the vulnerabilities, or perceived vulnerabilities a force has.

Balance Test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge any information if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk, undermine National Security or compromise law enforcement.

Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by various groups or individuals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of police systems, investigations and operations in the highly sensitive areas such as extremism, crime prevention, public disorder and terrorism prevention.

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.  The areas of police interest discussed above are sensitive issues that reveal security systems and therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for disclosure is not made out.

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