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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 13:58 GMT
Hacker crashes government sites
By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News

The Planning Service website was shut down last week
The Planning Service website was shut down last week
A hacker crashed a number of Northern Ireland government websites last week, BBC News has learned.

The websites, including the Planning Service's, were out of action for a number of days while the attack was investigated.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency website still cannot be accessed.

A Department of the Environment (DoE) spokesman said no information had been "lost or damaged".

"Over the weekend of 2-3 February an attempt was made to hack into a web server, owned and maintained by the Northern Ireland Civil Service's IT Shared Service Centre, which hosts a number of government websites including Planning Service's," said the DoE spokeswoman.

"The security systems in place identified this activity and the server was immediately shut down."

The Planning Service's website contains, among other things, information about planning applications being made across Northern Ireland's 26 council areas.
Keyboard
No information was "lost or damaged"

Environment Minister Arlene Foster said she only learned of the security breach on Monday night.

"It is very concerning to hear of people being able to hack into government sites," she said.

"Obviously it is something that the government will have to review, just as we did with our data.

"This is another issue which we are going to have to look at very seriously."

In a statement, the Department of Finance and Personnel said the hacking incident was detected on the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) website .

"The site was immediately taken off-line and investigations started. Because Northern Ireland Civil Service sites are run via clusters of servers, the Planning Service site was also taken off-line," said the statement.

"We are hoping to get full service restored within the next 48 hours but this is contingent upon the web sites being checked as part of our ongoing security testing activities."



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Environment Minister Arlene Foster on the hacking



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