Cyber crime — and how to beat it

Cyber crime — and how to beat it

When Richard Bruton, the communications minister, says Ireland must take robust steps to protect its national infrastructure from cyber attacks, he is not crying wolf.

It is a clear and present danger in our wired world.

More than 60% of Irish organisations have reported cyber crime in the past two years, resulting in losses of more than €3m per hit.

No company or entity that relies on computer networks is too small to attract the interest of cyber criminals.

Earlier this month, hackers using ransomware immobilised the computers at the city hall in Pensacola, Florida.

The attack came with a demand for €896,000. Hospitals and government offices across the US have been hit this year, with repair costs estimated at €6.7bn.

It’s a reminder — should one be needed — that with every box proclaiming the marvels of the computer therein, comes another labelled Pandora.

The threat is especially grave in Ireland.

Our digital economy contributes 5% of national gross domestic product, provides employment for more than 100,000 people, and hosts tech corporations such as Apple, IBM, Google, Microsoft, HP, and Facebook that have made Ireland their hub for operations in the European zone.

It’s estimated that more than 30% of all European Union data is stored here.

As the Government’s cyber strategy warns, a strike against a company here could have an immediate impact across the EU and beyond.

In the corporatespeak our bureaucrats and politicians now feel it necessary to use, we are faced with “elevated” security and economic risks.

There has been no shortage of statements of the obvious, but is the new National Cyber Security Strategy unveiled by Mr Bruton, robust enough?

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), we are told, will be authorised to increase staffing and — it’s to be assumed — spending on kit next year, but no information about current and resourcing and staffing has been published.

The country’s electoral system — covering voter registration and regulating online political advertising — is to be protected as part of the critical national infrastructure, which might help to stop foreign governments meddling in our democracy, but the principal threat comes from those who threaten our vital financial and utility sectors.

While piling resources into defence, could the NCSC, inco-operation with similar agencies in the EU, Britain, and the US, do more to take the fight aggressively to the cyber gangs?

Would not the clearest signal of the Government’s determination to deal with the threat be to accept that cyber security can no longer be parcelled up and all but hidden away in the communications, climate action, and environment ministry?

It warrants a department — and a minister — of its own.

If that is too radical for the Government to contemplate, moving it to the defence department — which is, after all, responsible for security — would be another option.


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