back to article London cop illegally used police database to monitor investigation into himself

A serving Metropolitan police officer who illegally accessed a police database to monitor a criminal investigation into his own conduct has pleaded guilty to crimes under the UK's Computer Misuse Act. Sergeant Okechukwu Efobi, of Byron Road, Wealdstone, Harrow, was ordered to complete 150 hours of community service and pay a …

  1. adam payne Silver badge

    A serving Metropolitan police officer who illegally accessed a police database to monitor a criminal investigation into his own conduct has pleaded guilty to crimes under the Computer Misuse Act.

    Why would a person being investigated still have access to the database?!?

    1. VonDutch

      Needed more evidence?

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        More than likely he would have preferred "less" evidence as far as his case was concerned...

        The article doesn't really state if he was only trawling or if he actually modified said database....

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Why would a person being investigated still have access to the database?!?

          Crap access controls on the database that allow you to give access to the entire thing, but then don't allow you to limit a certain account from being able to access one particular case?

          1. Peter X

            By the sounds of it, completely non-existent access controls.

      2. David Austin

        I like the idea of the police giving him enough rope to hang himself... but I don't think I can credit them with that level of cunning.

    2. sal II
      Windows

      Admin/Admin

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        admin/password is my guess or administrator/ no password needed, we're all good guys right?

        1. Halfmad Silver badge

          Admin/blank is always best.

          They can't steal your password if there isn't one!

      2. hplasm Silver badge

        Too complicated...

        plod/PC999

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Because maybe he was under investigation without his knowledge, and taking away the tools used to do his job would have been a dead giveaway?

      There's a fine balancing act with law enforcement systems, between giving people the tools they need to follow leads, and them being able to use them to look into things that don't concern them. It's hard to completely stop the second without hampering the first. Decent monitoring systems may help, but then they end up being a pool of data in their own right, and the question then arises about who should see them, and who watches those people, ad infinitum. In the end, the entire system has to be based on trust at some point.

      At the end of the day it comes down to professionalism vs temptation - you know you shouldn't be looking, but it's just sitting there asking you to take a peek. There are a lot of people working for the various police organisations across the country, many of them not officers, but civilian staff. They need the access to the databases to do their jobs, but they are all also human, and like all humans, can be good 'uns or bad 'uns.

      I'm sure rules and procedures are in place, and it may well be the procedures that are in place that means the number of people being caught is going up. Just think what it would have been like in the '70s and '80s when any safeguards that there would have been probably consisted of a password written on a post-it.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Fine balancing act

        That's garbage, all access should be limited to strict identification and authentification so that all access is easily traceable and that goes double for access from non police organisations.

        Access should be tracked at all times and records of access kept for a minimum time period, if silicon valley does it routinely, I am sure it's not beyond the wit of police forces to do it.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Fine balancing act

          That's garbage, all access should be limited to strict identification and authentification so that all access is easily traceable and that goes double for access from non police organisations.

          Who says it isn't? He got caught didn't he?

          My point is that it's difficult to limit what police can access if the thing theya re accessing is a tool they need to do their job. It's obviously not practical to lock it down so much that they can only access a single case, because that would mean that when they need to access anything else, such as previous convictions for a suspect, or another case that they suspect may be related, they need someone to grant that access. In practice, that would likely mean rubber-stamping of each request, because there would be far too many to actually get reviewed by a human.

          The obvious solution (which I'm sure is applied) is to log all access, and if someone suspects something dodgy is going on, look at those logs. Hence what happened in this case, which was almost certainly a case of that.

          You could go all clever and write some sort of system to look for suspicious patterns and flag them up for human review, but who's to say that doesn't exist either?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fine balancing act

            Difficult to stop people accessing their own accounts on a system? Darn, I wish that was the case in any job I had (actually, was in one job, I could order anything I wanted, ever... paying for it was the hard thing!).

        2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Fine balancing act

          That's garbage, all access should be limited

          I completely agree.

          Even in "normal" companies, access is (or at least should be) strictly limited to what a person needs to access for their job. Police officers do NOT need access to the entire database to do their job. Access should always be limited to the cases they are currently working on, with limited access to other info (probably just meta or search) with the possibility of requesting more access. All access to info, and all searches, should be logged and audited.

          I know someone who was actually kicked out of the police because he was found to have used the police database to check out his stepdaughter's new boyfriend. However, it was only investigated because his stepdaughter reported it, even though other cops and higher ups knew it had occurred. Misuse of the criminal databases should, IMHO, be cause for immediate sacking. Police should be held to a higher standard than others (as they are in a position of authority and trust), and I (as a developer) would lose my job if I misused the much less sensitive information I have access to.

          1. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Fine balancing act

            Lots of criminals have not been found or crimes have been solved much later than they should have because connections between different cases were not made. It might be reasonable to have a same name restriction (like officer Jenkins needs to ask a colleague to look up information about suspected car thief Jenkins), but that wouldn’t stop a police officer from looking up info about a robbery that he committed until his name is added to the case.

            And it doesn’t stop the jealous police officer illegally checking out the new boyfriend of their wife, ex wife, ex-girlfriend etc. The only way to stop this is harsh punishment when detected.

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Why would a person being investigated still have access to the database?!?

      Also, in addition to my previous post, in the actual article (my emphasis):

      A serving Metropolitan police officer who illegally accessed a police database to monitor a criminal investigation into his own conduct has pleaded guilty to crimes under the Computer Misuse Act

      I read this to mean that he didn't have access to the database, but either used someone else's access, or otherwise hacked into it. The CMA, as far as I understand it, covers unauthorised access to computer systems.

      What I don't understand is why he hasn't been sacked - the Met should take this sort of misconduct seriously, especially since it will have been made abundantly clear to him what access officers have to the various police databases, and what they are allowed to use them for.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Not to mention that he's been convicted for looking at the data related to a criminal investigation into him. No mention of what THAT investigation is about or any results from it.

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        There is no reason to read it that way, since what you read on the internet is notoriously inaccurate and it’s highly unlikely that the reporter knew anything about the finer points of the English language.

      3. Cynical Pie

        WHy wasn't he sacked?

        I would assume he was on restricted duties while the court case took place and now he would be subject to internal disciplinary processes which will probably see him dismissed.

        Crude oversimplification I know but if he was alleged to have done this, sacked before the case reached court and then found to be innocent by the courts then the Met would have been up the effluent creek without sufficient rowing equipment for unfair dismissal.

        As an aside working with police as I occasionally do they actually do require quite broad access as connections are often made by looking at similar cases which can allow them to create patterns of behaviour to ID suspects.

        Its far from a perfect system but the highly restricted and siloed access some are suggesting has the potential to be just as damaging as the current system, particularly in time sensitive cases.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "What I don't understand is why he hasn't been sacked"

        In the Met, spying on your own investigation is practically promotion material.

    5. gnasher729 Silver badge

      He would have access to the database to do his job, as long as he is on duty.

    6. LucreLout Silver badge

      Why would a person being investigated still have access to the database?!?

      I'm willing to bet the answer, if ever given, will amount to "So as not to tip them off that they were being investigated". I know, I know, but I'll bet that ends up being what we get for an answer.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah ESB. I fondly recall absolutely nothing about that building. They even managed to cook bacon badly, which is sort of ironic.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      ESB

      I'll stick to the beer.

      1. $till$kint
        Pint

        Re: ESB

        See you in the Atlas around 16:01 then

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: They even managed to cook bacon badly

      I don't think you are allowed to tell us that.

  3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Unhappy

    Monitoring an investigation into yourself? That should be career-ending, surely?

    1. dnicholas Bronze badge

      > Monitoring an investigation into yourself? That should be career-ending, surely?

      Nope, we need more tenacious detectives like this guy!

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Monitoring an investigation into yourself? That should be career-ending, surely?

      I'm pretty sure it will be - they'll just be following their disciplinary process to protect themselves from scum, sorry, to protect themselves from lawyers. I meant lawyers. Scum.

  4. teknopaul Silver badge

    systemic flaw

    Who watches the watchers watching to see if they are watched.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: systemic flaw

      ...and having been watched, they could end up doing time

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      Rorshach

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: systemic flaw

      the swiss

    4. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: systemic flaw

      Who watches the watchers watching to see if they are watched.

      His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel (Blackboard Monitor) Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch of course.

      1. Cynical Pie

        Re: systemic flaw

        Only when Havelock allows it...

        Have an upvote for the Sir Pterry reference

    5. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: systemic flaw

      Self watching and self reporting are the future.

  5. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    If you can't beat them, join them (although no evidence he was a mastermind criminal before joining the met.)

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Coat

      ftfy

      If you can't beat them up, join them (although no evidence he was a mastermind criminal before joining the met.)

      ..then you can beat others up!

      A bit 70's?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self incriminating...

    > A serving Metropolitan police officer who illegally accessed a police database to monitor a criminal investigation into his own conduct has pleaded guilty to crimes under the Computer Misuse Act

    Why do I come away with the distinct feeling that he has admitted this in order to be dismissed for a relatively minor offence so that whatever it was he was being investigated for stops and then he is not prosecuted for potentially much more serious offences?

    (Or is he really that stupid wrt understanding how IT works, which begs the question of how he got through the recruitment process in the first place?)

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Self incriminating...

      (Or is he really that stupid wrt understanding how IT works, which begs the question of how he got through the recruitment process in the first place?)

      I daresay that 90% or more of all users don't understand how IT works. The ones that try to get around things are usually the worst as to having a clue but then they think they "know" what they're doing.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Self incriminating...

      "Why do I come away with the distinct feeling that he has admitted this in order to be dismissed for a relatively minor offence so that whatever it was he was being investigated for stops and then he is not prosecuted for potentially much more serious offences?"

      In that case, he neither understands IT or the law. If it's a criminal investigation and there is enough evidence, then it won't matter if he's already left/gone sick/retired. Those are the methods used to get out of disciplinary hearings that might lead to losing their pensions.

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Self incriminating...

      £5 says he will get "Words of advice" (about how to avoid getting caught next time).

  7. Claverhouse Bronze badge
    WTF?

    A Bunch of Miss Prisses in Law Enforcement

    What a stupid law. I definitely would investigate any plot against me, if I could get away with it without being detected. [ Although I certainly am uninterested in finding out other people's opinions on me, particularly as eavesdroppers etc. etc.. ]

    Life is not meant to be handled with kid gloves.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: A Bunch of Miss Prisses in Law Enforcement

      Are you honestly suggesting that bent coppers should be told when they are under investigation?

      Should the plod be phoning ahead when they're planning a raid, to make sure the perps are going to be in as well?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A Bunch of Miss Prisses in Law Enforcement

        "arrested by appointment" is a thing, especially if you are rich and/or famous.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: A Bunch of Miss Prisses in Law Enforcement

        Are you honestly suggesting that bent coppers should be told when they are under investigation?

        Normally, people who are interviewed under caution become aware that they are under some kind of investigation.

  8. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Send for stick tape, my side are splitting...

    "Back in 2015, the Met recorded a tripling of computer misuse allegations over the year, with police employees alleged to have abused their privileges 173 times. "

    173 times in a year? LOL.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Send for stick tape, my side are splitting...

      Indeed There are some interesting shenanigans going on in various forces that don't get reported (such as fiddling speed measurement stats to lower reported speeds and set camera trigger points lower as a result and/or not take action on dangerous residential roads because the fiddled stats show speeds aren't dangerous)

    2. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: Send for stick tape, my side are splitting...

      Allegations, doesn't mean they are validated.

  9. Pete4000uk

    If they don't fire him

    A little bit of respect will be lost...

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: If they don't fire him

      I'd be surprised if the reputation of the Metropolitan Police could get any lower.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: If they don't fire him

        Maybe they could consult West Yorkshire Constabulary?

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Talk about a slap on the wrist

    I wonder what an ordinary citizen under the same computer misuse charges for hacking into the police database into an investigation into them would get? Probably years in jail, not a tiny fine and a few weeks of community service.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Talk about a slap on the wrist

      A few years in the equador embassy followed by extradition to gitmo?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Talk about a slap on the wrist

      Exactly, Many many rules for us, very few rules for them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One way to reduce crime

    is take away their unfiorms.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One way to reduce crime

      Not really. Some places do that. But don't take the privileges too. It ends up worse.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Efobi trawled the unidentified database, sending himself documents

    if this is very close to the truth, on top of being outrageous, it's also ridiculous. Nothing to see here, move along, move along...

  13. Hans 1 Silver badge
    WTF?

    GDPR

    Was the person not entitled to have access to this data on her/him under the GDPR ?

    If so, then the person saved us ££££ tax payer moneys by accessing the data without asking others to provide said data.

    As long as that person did not interfere with the data or the investigation, I do not see a problem.

    1. Mike007

      Re: GDPR

      There are plenty of people who would not have criminal records if the police had been so kind as to notify them of an investigation a couple of weeks prior to obtaining/executing those search warrants!

      A less sarcastic answer would probably be to reference Data Protection Act 2018 section 3.3.45.4 (a+b)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the sharpest tool in the box

    It was a while ago, but I have worked with a couple of UKI police forces to implement information databases. It was made clear to me, and I was told it was always made VERY clear to database users, that every user interaction would be logged. If you search for yourself, anyone you know, or anyone else that you cannot justify as part of an ongoing case then you will be in trouble. At that time, I don't believe there was a mechanism to trawl through the logs to actively look for improper access. There may be some process to do that now, but even if there isn't, all access is logged and will be used in court as evidence against you.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Civil servants never supposed to see their own records

    Having worked for the Gov in the past they I know that before you start work they collect up any data they hold on you and lock it up, now this might have changed since my day but I for one cannot understand why.

    From this article it is clear that the police are allowed access without what used to be reasonable restrictions and that is something that needs addressing after so many stories of access abuse in the police/judicial system.

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