Different hunts have been targeted by the anti-hunting group behind a website hosted in Iceland, on which personal contact details have been published. H&H finds out more, from those involved and affected
By Abigail Butcher
HUNTS are standing defiant following a spate of data breaches involving three different packs over the course of this month.
Last week, personal details including names, addresses and contact details of supporters and members of the New Forest Hounds and Cottesmore Hunt were published on a website run by an anti-hunting group. It follows the release of similar data from the Mendip Farmers’.
Police in Hampshire are investigating and have written to those identified as part of the leak advising them to review “online and home security” by changing passwords, reviewing privacy settings on all online accounts and so securing their digital footprint.
Hampshire Police has also recommended supporters “consider home security options including any outbuildings, kennels and/or stables”.
A spokesman for the New Forest Hounds said: “A hacking event has occurred. We have reported it to the relevant organisations. The police are actively investigating so we cannot comment further at present.”
The Cottesmore has reported the matter to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, which told H&H the incident is “currently being assessed by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.”
A spokesman for the Cottesmore said: “We hope those responsible will be punished appropriately as a result of this data breach, which highlights the purely vindictive nature of those behind this crime.”
One supporter whose details have been published said he is “concerned but not worried”.
“Anti-hunting groups have photographs of me going back to the 1980s, so I’m sure they have much more information on me than I know they have got, but I do wonder why they have this because I’m participating in a legal activity,” he said.
“They don’t have my consent to hold any of this information and I think it’s time these organisations were brought to account.”
The group behind the leaks is posting documents on a website hosted in Iceland, which has laws protecting freedom of speech.
Activist Jay Tiernan has previously acted as a spokesman for the group. He was found guilty of contempt of court in 2015 for harassing farmers during badger culls in breach of an injunction.
But new spokesman Ernie Goldman last week described his group’s publishing of information as a “tit-for-tat GDPR conflict”, seeking the removal of a central database on anti-hunt activists that he believes the Countryside Alliance and Hunting Office hold.
Mr Goldman said a prolonged campaign is planned, saying: “Some information is coming from within the hunting community, some from groups within the anti-hunting community and some we have no idea where it’s come from. [In other cases] we found everything we need online.”
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance (CA) said it retains video evidence of incidents of animal rights extremism and records of social media posts, which could be used as evidence in criminal investigations.
“Legal advice suggests this is entirely compliant with GDPR,” he added.
CA chief executive Tim Bonner is robust in refuting claims that the information held contravenes GDPR, and that some of the information being published by activists came from within the hunting community.
He told H&H: “All this information [being posted by the anti-hunting group] has been accessed through illegal hacking activity targeting personal email accounts, and the claim that they’re being given access to this data [by individuals] within the hunting community is just another intent to cause upset and distress within hunts.
“What they’ve published is of no public interest to anyone – it’s harassment and intimidation.”
Mr Bonner said cybercrime is being used across all sectors of society, and cited a previous data hack of a National Farmers Union database around the time of the badger cull.
Both the CA and the Hunting Office have issued advice to packs and supporters across the country on how to tighten online security, but Mr Bonner said: “The simplest and most effective way to deal with this is to regularly change passwords.”
He added: “This is a significant and law-abiding part of the rural community and these attacks are completely unacceptable, but will not have any effect on the future of trail-hunting or other rural activities. People are determined they will carry on.”
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