31 August 2012

Nigeria: Boko Haram Linked to Leakage of SSS Chiefs' Data

Boko Haram may have opened a new phase in its war against security agencies as it uploaded on the internet the personnel records of top officials of the State Security Service (SSS), both in service and retired.

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), the data of over 60 SSS officials, including home addresses and names of immediate family members, were uploaded online with a threatening message from the terrorist group. The sect was linked to the uploading of the data.

Among those whose service and personal details were supplied is the SSS Director General, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita, whose details include his mobile phone number, bank account particulars and contact information about his son.

THISDAY gathered that the exposure has infuriated the management of the nation's secret police, which has launched a probe into how the sect had access to the staff records.

"This is a national embarrassment," an SSS official told AP.

"I was shocked to see my details posted on the internet," said one former agent. "I've not heard anything from anybody. I was surprised that such information could be leaked."

Another man on the list said he simply once served as a doctor to help the agency on an on-call basis only. The list appeared to include lower-ranking agents, as well as former state SSS directors.

Some experts believed the list might have come from the agency's pension department as it included retirees.

"It's worrying that they have access to that. Those living in Abuja [and the north] are the ones who should be living in fear," said another agent.

According to AP, many of the agents listed, whom it could reach by Thursday, said they received no official warning from the SSS that their information had been posted online nor were they alerted.

Instead, colleagues and other former agents called one another to spread the news and later contacted the SSS itself to report the leak.

The material has been deleted from the comment section of a website, but the security breach astonished former officials of the agency; calling into question whether Nigeria's intelligence community are too compromised from within to stop the violence now plaguing the country.

A senior intelligence official told AP that authorities were aware that the leak had happened and that many were embarrassed by it. He spoke on condition of anonymity as information about the leak was not to have been made public.

SSS spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, reportedly declined to answer questions from AP Thursday about the posting of the information.

The information leak came in two postings earlier this month on a website that provides rewritten news. The first posting threatened to kill SSS agents on behalf of Boko Haram. The second posting simply offered a block of text containing biographical and other details about the agents.

AP, however, declined to identify the website involved as cached versions of the comments remain online.

Sources said it was not immediately clear if the information had been hacked from the outside and obtained or taken out by an agency employee or someone with access to the material.

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