A Cork-based cybersecurity firm has warned of an almost 300% increase in cyber attacks from Iran in recent weeks.
Smarttech247, based in Cork Airport Business Park, says there has been a spike in 'malicious activity' since the escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States which, it says, illustrates the threat posed by nation-state cyber attacks.
Key infrastructure, including power grids and healthcare systems, are among the targets of such attacks.
Tensions between Iran and the United States dramatically escalated after a top Iranian military commander was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq in early January.
Iran responded by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops in the days that followed.
Raluca Saceanu, general manager of Smarttech247 said the threat of nation-states targeting critical infrastructure with cyber attacks is real and steps need to be taken to minimise risk.
"Attacks on critical infrastructure and their operational technology are on the rise, as witnessed in the wake of new tensions between Iran and the US," she said.
We have seen a significant 286% increase in our Security Operations Centres (SOCs) in malicious activity coming in from Iran, making the threat of a nation-state cyber attack on high profile corporations, government agencies, and critical systems a very real one.
Malicious hackers are threatening public safety all over the world, she said, which means government agencies in Ireland need to ramp up their cybersecurity strategies and adopt a “defence-in-depth” methodology.
Cybercriminals have decided to deliberately target hospitals, payment systems and utilities as their IT is often integrated into critical infrastructure, vital national networks and consumer devices.
Ms Saceanu said: "Without a doubt, Iran has the capability and the tendency to launch destructive attacks. What’s important to note is that hackers will use the current geopolitical tensions to launch attacks that may not necessarily be connected to Iran but they are simply leveraging the momentum."
There have been numerous high profile cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, including one on the Ukranian power grid and multiple attacks on the US healthcare system.
Andy Grzess, Chief Technology Officer at Smarttech24, said: "Government agencies need to ensure all systems are up to date. Failure to pay close attention to the critical patches has made cities and hospitals ‘easy targets’. Hackers will continue to exploit global security loopholes for localised gain."
In response to this, Smarttech247 has announced a significant investment in its industrial security operations to help organisations which rely on critical infrastructure to defend themselves against cyber attacks.
The risk to such infrastructure has been heightened by increased global tensions, with a significant increase in attempted attacks in the past fortnight.
Smarttech247 is using innovative OT security technology from Indegy in its state-of-the-art 24/7/365 Security Operations Centres (SOCs) to deliver its industrial security services.
The value of this latest investment is estimated at approximately €300,000.
The announcement follows the publication of the Irish government's National Cyber Security Strategy, which aims to improve the network and information security used by Government departments and agencies, and ultimately protect citizens and businesses from cyber threats.
The cyber-security strategy sets out how to ensure the State's critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, enterprises, energy networks and security systems, and computer networks are "resilient, safe and secure".