We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The charity said it has informed the relevant regulators and authorities. Alamy Stock Photo

Authorities investigating ransomware attack on charity that works with vulnerable children

It is understood social justice charity Extern has been the victim of a data breach.

A POLICE INVESTIGATION has been launched after a charity that works with vulnerable children suffered a data breach in a ransomware attack.

Extern, a cross-border social justice charity with offices in Belfast and Co Kildare, has confirmed that it has been the victim of a large ransomware cyber attack.

One source told The Journal that staff bank account details, addresses and email addresses had all been accessed by the hackers. Extern would not say whether service users have also been impacted.

The charity, which reportedly receives millions of euro in State funding from Tusla each year, said: “The full extent of this incident is being investigated and contained by external cyber security specialists.”

The charity said it has informed the relevant regulators and authorities, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána. It added that it has activated its critical response plan. 

Ransomware attacks are when a hacker or a group of hackers steal data from a person, business, organisation or government then hold the data at ransom. Typically they demand for money to be paid through crytocurrency or else the data will be leaked to the public. 

Extern has been asked whether it has paid a ransom and if not, whether it intends to. 

A spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland told The Journal that the police force received a report of a cyber attack that impacted a local charity on 9 April. 

“The matter has been referred to specialist detectives in the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Cyber Crime Investigation Team,” they added.

A spokesperson for the British Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Extern Group reported an incident to us and we are assessing the information provided.”

Extern said it is “working as hard as possible” to contain and resolve the incident. 

“Extern’s service delivery has not been impacted and continues to operate as normal,” it added.

The Journal has contacted the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Tusla and gardaí for comment.

Extern supports more than 20,000 people, including children, young people and vulnerable individuals who are impacted by homelessness, addiction, poor mental health or those who have been recently released from the criminal justice system.

The charity was established in 1978 and is headquartered in Belfast and is one of the leading social justice charities in the north of Ireland. Young people would commonly be referred to its services by Tusla.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.