Police and security forces across the UK face a backlash after their plans to hire armed security contractors have been exposed online.
Police and police forces across Britain face a huge backlash after security contractors hired to work in their departments were exposed online to the internet.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has found police and security staff in the UK could be losing out on at least £20 million over the next five years.
The NAO also found the force could be risking more than £50 million a year in the process.
Some of the security staff are being paid a combined £42,000-£50,000, while some have received payments up to £80,000 a year.
The number of police officers employed to protect the nation’s national assets, such as the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Navy, has grown by a third over the last five years to more than 4,500, according to the NAO.
But a review by the police and police service watchdog found the new contractors were “not fit for purpose”, and they were “significantly less effective” than their civilian counterparts.
Some have received bonuses for “significant” performance.
The review also found some contractors have “significant gaps” in their training, leading to delays in the creation of new teams and systems.
Some also face disciplinary action for poor performance.
Some security contractors also face concerns about privacy, with some of them using encrypted communications.
The watchdog found that while the contracts could “be justified to secure national security, they should not be used to gain control of individuals or groups”.
“A substantial number of contracts may have been procured as part of the wider recruitment of a range of officers and staff to support police and public safety in the area of security,” the report said.
Some police forces have introduced new measures, including increasing training for the force’s new recruits and creating a special cyber unit to provide more secure communication.
In May, the Home Office said it would be working with the private sector to help police and the public to prevent “cyber-enabled threats” to national security.
“We are making a clear commitment to ensure that we are keeping the UK’s national security at the forefront of our national priorities,” a Home Office spokesperson said.
In a statement to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the force said: “The use of cyber security by police is a key component of the safeguarding of national security and ensuring that the rights and freedoms of our citizens are protected.”
The NAOD also said it had been looking at the future of the sector.
“In recent years, the demand for security contractors has increased significantly, leading us to ask if there is a need to look at the impact of contracting security services,” it said.
“While we will continue to look into the role of cyber-security services, we will not be able to recommend any specific services for the future.”