28 March 2019
In our centenary year, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has had to make the decision to cancel Annual Conference.
In March, the PFEW was subjected to two cyber-attacks on its IT systems, the second of which extended beyond its national HQ to the majority of local Branch Boards. Experts are working to determine the full extent of the damage and there is no indication at this stage that any data has been extracted but it has brought PFEW’s IT systems to a standstill and severely impacted day-to-day business.
A criminal investigation is taking place, and everything is being done to bring systems back online quickly, by the most secure means possible.
However, without any IT systems, data, files, websites and email, the decision was made to cancel the showcase event which was due to take place in Birmingham, 11-12 June, which sees visitors from around the world and political leaders discuss important policing issues.
John Apter, PFEW’s National Chair said: “We have come through a lot in the last 100 years and we will get through this, but it was only right that we took the decision to cancel this year’s Annual Conference as all efforts need to focus on getting business as usual back up and running, to restore member services and support. We have to prioritise what is achievable now and in the coming weeks and months, and we have to be realistic. Supporting members is our primary concern.
“Work behind the scenes has been relentless and investigations are continuing into what has been a crushing experience for the whole Federation network.
“Experts in business recovery have stated that under normal circumstances it would take at least four to six months to recover from a cyber-attack – we have had two and are in the midst of what will be a lengthy and complex criminal investigation. Annual Conference was due to take place in nine weeks’ time and it would not have been possible to deliver this without our IT infrastructure.
“We cannot deny that the Federation as a whole is in crisis – the priority is our members and re-establishing day-to-day business. This is not a decision I have made in isolation. I have taken on board lots of advice and, although a painful decision, I do feel this is the right one in the circumstances. I would also add that although Brexit and its potential impact on policing has not been a deciding factor in this decision, it has been a consideration.
“As National Chair, this has truly been an emotional decision for me, both personally and professionally, but, the priority is our members and the day-to-day business.”
The PFEW is working with the National Crime Agency (NCA), who is leading a criminal investigation into the matter, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and with BAE Systems, experts in cyber-security.
There will be some financial penalties as a result of the cancellation but these should be minimised by giving people and organisations as much notice as possible.