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online security breach PSNI on alert as New IRA monitor social media accounts of three Belfast-based officers

The terror gang has been able to find out the areas where they live, restaurants they regularly visit and even sporting events they have attended or are due to attend

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PSNI officers

PSNI officers

PSNI officers

Violent dissident republicans are monitoring the social media accounts of at least three Belfast-based PSNI officers sparking fears for their personal safety.

The Sunday World has learned that the New IRA has been gathering private and personal information on two female constables and one policeman who have been "lax" with their online security.

All three are serving officers and are based at the same city PSNI station, it's understood.

According to a senior dissident source, the terror gang has been able to find out the areas where they live, restaurants they regularly visit and even sporting events they have attended or are due to attend.

Other information gleamed from the officers' online activity include a roadside garage where one fuels up their car.

It's understood the PSNI is aware of the potential threat to the officers and are taking appropriate steps to ensure their safety.

The terror gang - who the Sunday World revealed last month planned to target more security force members - has also been able to collate the names of up to 20 of their police colleagues by simply snooping on their Facebook interactions, the source claimed.

"They've been watching those three accounts for quite a few months now and it's even surprised them how easy it is to get potentially life-endangering information," the source said. "These police officers have been very lax with their online activity.

"One policewomen attends [fitness] events and regularly posts online about attending events and what competitions are coming up, along with pictures of herself taking part.

"The other female officer has been very loose - they know quite a lot about her - where she gets her petrol, when and where she goes out to eat, because she 'checks-in' to the places on Facebook.

"They know the name of her dog and how she spilled wine on her curtains at Christmas and what she dressed up for as Halloween.

"They were able to actually identify one of her colleagues from a comment he made on one of her photographs, which was public.

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"From watching their interactions and friends' lists they also been able to identify around 20 other police officers or staff. though their accounts seem to be more secure."

Last night a security source described the revelations "very worrying".

"The concern is not only for the safety of the police officers targeted but also on their judgment when it comes to sharing information online.

"Both police and civilian staff are reminded regularly that posting personal information on social media carried not only a risk for them, but for colleagues and of course their family and friends and leave them open to threats, attacks and blackmail.

"A simple search of an officer's name could lead anyone to their social media account, but it is what can be found on that account that carries the danger.

"Clearly, there are issues with how some of these officers have been using social media."

Advice issued to the PSNI and other UK police forces by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) had strongly advised police officers and staff against sharing private information on social media.

The 2013 issued guidance states that: "Criminals and others may seek to use the internet and social media to identify personal information about police officers with a view to embarrassing, discrediting, harassing, corrupting or blackmailing them or their families for their own benefit.

"Police officers in rural locations, in sensitive posts, with uncommon names, or in high-profile posts are particularly vulnerable to such attempts," it added.

It also advised officers to set social media privacy settings to the highest level and are careful when accepting 'friend' requests.

The Sunday World revealed earlier this year how the New IRA had compiled a sinister list of 25 PSNI officers and staff it planned to target.

Dissident sources said the terror group had been "noting and detailing" the movements and addresses of serving staff for months.

The revelation came just days after the gang attempted murder of a policewoman and her three-year-old daughter in Co Derry.

Some of those on the dissident hit-list included colleagues attached to the same PSNI station as the young mother.

The part-time officer, who was also a member of civilian staff, escaped an attempt on her life outside her Dungiven home in April after a "viable cylinder" device was planted to the rear of a vehicle.

The PSNI said it had been placed directly underneath the spot where the toddler was due to be strapped into her car seat.

The New IRA later admitted responsibility for the attack and vowed to target more members of the security forces.

Last month, desperate dissident chiefs put out orders to all units in the North to begin gathering information on serving prison officers.

Rank and file members were told to turn their attention to screws as there was "too much vigilance and security" around cops after the failed bomb attempt on the police officer.

However, today's revelations show the violent terror gang still has police officers in its sights.

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