Cybercrime a growing threat, says insurer Zurich

Cybercrime is a growing threat with criminals attacking business, individuals and governments, says the head of insurance company Zurich which based in Dublin.

Patrick Manley, who manages the company’s 16,000 employees in Europe, the Middle East and Asia with turnover of €13bn a year, says a type of World Health Organisation is needed to keep a step ahead of the criminals.

“We need a kind of WHO for data with rules that go beyond what we could expect if we leave it to individuals and governments. Cyber criminals do not respect borders and security and how their data is used is of interest to every citizen”, he said while attending a meeting in Brussels.

An independent global body, empowered to force implementation of cyber security rules is needed, he said. At the same time, individuals have become desensitised to the risks when using the internet, but they need to be reminded of the need for caution, he added.

His comments coincide with the Global Conference on CyberSpace in The Hague in The Netherlands, attended by more than 1,800 people from over 100 countries where the EU’s head of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini and Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders called for rules of engagement, similar to that observed in times of war.

“It would be wise to designate specific elements of the cyber domain to be off limits for cyber-attacks, in the same way that hospitals cannot be attacked in times of war. Examples could be critical infrastructure providing essential civilian services, civilian incident-response structures and certain critical components of the global internet”, they said in a joint paper.

States should refrain from undermining the fundamental security of the vital cyber infrastructures, they said. States are often reported as the source of cyber attacks on infrastructure in other countries. However, in coming up with international rules for cyber space, governments must work with other partners including in the public and private sector, they said.

The Convention on Cybercrime of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe is the only binding international agreement on the issue. Zurich moved its global cyber defence team to Ireland 15 months ago, creating 120 jobs almost all for Irish graduates. Their job is to find weaknesses in the companies’ systems globally and strengthen them.

They received support from IDA Ireland to establish two IT hubs. Mr Manley said they had no difficulty finding well-qualified Irish employees. The Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Investigation Centre at UCD was cited as contributing to Ireland being chosen.

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