Home Office pins four-hour passport e-gate failure on ‘network issue’

Biometric border technology system that is used each year by millions of travellers last night suffered a lengthy outage at ports across the country, with passengers reporting disruption and delays

Passport e-gates at airports around the country stopped working for about four hours last night after Border Force systems were impacted by a “network issue”.

The incident came hot on the heels of reports of a cyber breach at the Ministry of Defence, but government has asserted that the e-gate outage shows “no indication of malicious cyber activity”.

News of the tech failure emerged last night, alongside reports of lengthy queues and delays as airport staff were required to manually check the documents of all passengers arriving in the UK.

Manchester Airport, which is one of 15 air and rail ports across the UK at which the technology is installed, posted online at 9.15pm to warn that “UK Border Force is experiencing nationwide issues affecting e-gates”. It added that its staff were supporting government officials in trying to “minimise the disruption while they fix the problem”.

After several hours of such disruption, the e-gates were back up and running by the end of the day, a Home Office spokesperson said.

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“E-gates at UK airports came back online shortly after midnight,” they added. “As soon as engineers detected a wider system network issue at 7.44pm last night, a large-scale contingency response was activated within six minutes. At no point was border security compromised, and there is no indication of malicious cyber activity.”

Individual airports also advised passengers that the issue had been addressed, with Heathrow issuing an update at 1.47am claiming that “all systems are now running as usual [and] passengers can expect to travel through Heathrow smoothly”.

E-gates began operating in UK ports in 2008 and there are now 270 installed around the country. Government has previously claimed that the UK processes more entries via e-gates than any other nation, with about 70 million arrivals each year using the biometric technology.

Sam Trendall

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