Garda email issues flagged over a year ago, is it any wonder external accounts are used?

Just how restricted is the Garda email and should we be concerned?

Garda email issues flagged over a year ago, is it any wonder external accounts are used?

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan (centre) at the Policing Authority meeting in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Earlier this week, An Garda Siochana confirmed that Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has “occasionally used a Gmail address to ensure that Garda business has been discharged effectively”. 

This has, understandably, caused some security concerns, however, it’s hard to believe the fact that the Commissioner would need to use an external mail provider would come as a surprise, given the details of the Garda Inspectorate report. This document was published in November 2015 and highlighted some key failings in terms of technology within the force. 

Commissioner O’Sullivan referred to this report when addressing the Association of Garda Superintendents earlier this year. Speaking in April, O’Sullivan stated that the technological failings within An Garda Siochana means the system is 20 years behind where it should be and this has enormous implications. This was clear from reading the Inspectorate Report of 2015.

“During visits conducted for this review and other inspections, the Inspectorate was informed by most units of technology needs that would provide for greater efficiency.”

The report continues to outline failings within the technological infrastructure. One key extract from the report, which shows why we should not be completely surprised and shocked at the revelations surrounding O’Sullivan’s Gmail account, reads as follows:

“Some garda stations have no access to PULSE and some divisions have no 999 electronic call recording systems. Digital images and attachments, such as photographs and videos, cannot be sent within the Garda Síochána or externally, which limits the ability to provide crime investigation support remotely. Email continues to be a challenge for all personnel to access and use efficiently”. 

The admission by the nation’s police force that “email continues to be a challenge” is a failure of the wider system, which has not adapted with the times we live in.

Gardai are now working their way through the Commissioner’s emails to ensure her private account was not hacked or compromised.

While no evidence has been found to suggest she was the victim of a hack, there is some concern that her Gmail email address and password may have been among the millions stolen and placed for sale online, following a mass theft of data belonging to some 68 million people from Dropbox back in 2012. 

In a statement issued by An Garda Siochana, it’s said they are satisfied the Commissioner’s system is secure. 

"The Commissioner takes all recommended security measures when using Gmail such as regularly changing the password, using a mix of letters, numbers and symbols for the password, and independent device authentication,” the statement continued. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform issued a report entitled “Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016 – 2021”. This report detailed funding, which will be placed into An Garda Síochána in the coming years. 

This document highlighted an "unprecedented level of additional investment" of €205 million for Garda ICT which will bring total expenditure in Garda ICT over the period to €330 million. 

It is hoped that this investment will bring a modern and more effective policing service.