Personnel records of former and current operatives of the State Security Service, including home addresses and names of immediate family members, have leaked on the Internet along with a message threatening the service’s operatives, the Associated Press news agency reported yesterday.
AEB located cached version of the records initially posted on a website that reproduces news from Nigeria, but AEB will not re-publish them so as not to endanger the lives of the affected personnel.
The leaked details contain home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, bank account numbers, service personnel numbers and names of immediate family members of more than 60 serving and retired personnel, including the SSS director-general Ita Ekpeyong.
The security records appear to be originally posted on August 13 under ‘comments’ to a story about a shooting incident in Yobe State, and remained freely available on the Internet for days.
Even though the records have now been removed from that website, the Google cached version is still available on the web, and therefore AEB will not name the website where the details first appeared.
Many SSS personnel have been killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in the past three years of the sect’s insurgency, including in Borno, Kano and Yobe states.
The leaked SSS details were followed by another post on the same website about four minutes later containing a message threatening personnel of the service.
When contacted spokesman for the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, last night she said the names said to be mentioned could not be those of the service’s personnel, apart from the name of the director general, because it was impossible to obtain and expose SSS staff records.
Excerpts from the AP story
The leak of personal data of more than 60 past and current employees of Nigeria’s State Security Service remained easily accessible on the Internet for days and had details about the agency’s director-general, including his mobile phone number, bank account particulars and contact information for his son.
Many of agents listed who could be reached by the AP said they received no official warning from the spy agency that their information had been posted online nor been otherwise alerted.
A senior Nigerian intelligence official said 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.
Marilyn Ogar, a spokeswoman for the State Security Service, declined to answer the AP’s questions Thursday about the posting of the information.
Many agents for the typically secretive agency are preoccupied with concealing their identities, as most try to blend unnoticed into society.
The information leak came in two postings earlier this month on a website that provides rewritten news on Nigeria.
Though the comments have been removed, the AP is not identifying the website involved as cached versions of the comments remain online and intelligence service agents have been killed by Boko Haram members in the past.
The list includes former and current agents across the country, including Director-General Ekpeyong Ita. Those reached by the AP who were willing to talk expressed disbelief that sensitive information like that could make its way to the Internet.
“I was shocked to see my details posted on the Internet,” said one former agent, who declined to be named out of safety concerns. “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 one-time state directors for the agency.
Some of those contacted suggested that the list appeared to come from the agency’s pension department, as it mostly included retirees and listed bank account information for nearly all those named. 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.
Most of those on the leaked list of agents reached by the AP said no one from the federal government or the spy agency warned them that their personnel information had appeared on the Internet. Instead, colleagues and other former agents called each other to spread the news and later contacted the State Security Service themselves to report the breach.
It is unclear if the person who posted the information online really does have ties to Boko Haram, which has targeted security officials in the past.