The Police National Database launched on Wednesday to provide law enforcers across the country with access to a pool of shared intelligence on crime, but some experts have raised data security concerns over the single repository of sensitive information.
The Home Office-funded project, implemented by service firm Logica and launched by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), was created in response to the Soham murder inquiry.
The inquiry found that the inability of police forces to routinely share information electronically was a major hindrance that meant killer Ian Huntley wasn't arrested before he murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
The database itself, which is already being used to good effect by law enforcers across the country, is accessible only by authorised and vetted users, according to the NPIA.
Smartcard technology enables the user to log-in, with roles-based access controls ensuring users are only able to view information relevant to their role, while auditing systems have also been implemented to deter misuse.
However, security experts maintain that creating a single repository for sensitive information on criminals as well as victims could lead to a greater risk of data breach.
Alex Teh, director at security vendor Vigil Software, argued that while the database is a positive step in creating a more joined-up system, it has effectively created "one point of vulnerability".
"The reality with central databases such as this is that you're only as good as your weakest link – as all police forces across the UK will now be able to access the database to share intelligence, there needs to be a joined up process for data protection," he said.
"It only takes one weak access connection at one police force for data to get into the wrong hands."
Rob Cotton, chief executive of security consultancy NCC Group. argued that a centralised database such as this act like "a hacker's honeypot".
"Any database that holds personal information should be protected with stringent security measures, but unfortunately the more data is united in one place, the more criminal activity is attracted," he told V3.co.uk.
"Although the claim that LulzSec accessed this year's census data turned out to be a hoax, the reverberations are significant. Organisations should always be wary about bringing such huge volumes of potentially sensitive information into one place, and questioning its necessity."
Martin Lee, senior software engineer at Symantec.cloud agreed that the database could be an attractive target for hackers, but added that designing it to store information securely is not an impossible task.
"Problems tend to occur when organisations store personal information without considering that the information warrants protection and that it may be subject to attack by hackers. The police database is almost certainly to be a system that has been designed with security considerations in mind," he told V3.co.uk.
"One thing is sure, the costs of dealing with the damage of a successful attack are much more than the costs of providing adequate protection in the first place."
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