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Nearly three quarters of UK police websites lack proper secure connections to protect their visitors’ privacy, according to a report.

Research by The Centre for Public Safety found that while 27 per cent of sites use “the highest world-class standard” of secure connection, 73 per cent either lack a secure connection or have a “deficient or insecure” implementation, putting privacy at risk.

Worryingly, 24 per cent of sites lacked any automatic secure connection, and 70 per cent of those sites invited users to submit personal data. In some cases, information relating to criminal activity was requested over a plain text connection.

The results of the study, which examined 71 police and policing-affiliated websites, go directly against advice issued to consumers by the police service and the government.

“The government and police regularly tell the public to ‘look for the padlock’ when using websites,” said Rory Geoghegan, founding director of The Centre for Public Safety. “It’s time they followed their own advice and delivered secure-by-default websites for the public to use.

“While the rest of the world moves to secure-by-default, some forces and their IT providers seem intent on delivering not-enough-by-default. Take the Met Police – spending hundreds of millions per year and only achieving a grade C.

“Over a quarter of police forces have got it right, allowing the public to communicate with them securely – but the rest need to redouble their efforts.

“Those police forces accepting personal data and information on criminal activity over plain text should, as a matter of priority, implement secure connections.

“It’s 2016 – the internet is not new, the cyber security threat is not new – and yet some police forces and their IT providers seem to think it is acceptable to pay large sums of taxpayer money for insecure technology.”

Among the sites accepting personal data in plain text were those of the British Transport Police, Greater Manchester Police and Hampshire Police.

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