Wednesday 22 January 2020

Women told details safe after abortion site hacked

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

A MAJOR UK abortion provider has reassured Irish women that their personal details are safe following a hacking attack on its computer network.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said its website was targeted by an anti-abortion extremist in a "sophisticated cyber attack" on Thursday.

More than 26,000 attempts to access confidential information occurred during a six-hour period but the hacker failed to get any medical records or details of women who had undergone abortions.

However, names, addresses and phone numbers of pregnant women and others who had contacted the website seeking information about abortions were stolen.

A spokeswoman for BPAS said its dedicated Irish website, which deals with enquiries from Irish women, was not targeted.

A 27-year-old man, who is understood to have links with hacking group Anonymous, was arrested in the West Midlands in England in the early hours of yesterday morning in connection with the attack.

News of the hacking came to light on Twitter, where claims were posted that the hacker had accessed the names of women who had abortions at BPAS clinics and was threatening to publish them.

However, the BPAS said the data that was stolen did not contain any medical details of women or personal information relating to women who had received treatment.

"The website does store details (names, addresses and phone numbers) of people who have requested information from BPAS via the website, including those making personal enquiries as well as health and education professionals, the media and students," said a spokeswoman.

"These may have been enquiries relating to contraception, pregnancy, abortion, STI testing and sterilisation.

"While the confidentiality of women receiving treatment was never in danger, this episode was taken very seriously indeed. A court injunction was obtained to prevent the publication of the data."

More than 5,000 Irish women travelled abroad to have an abortion last year.

Irish Independent

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