An experienced civil servant has been appointed to head the country’s cyber body, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), at a time of planned expansion.
Richard Browne previously led the development of national cyber security policy, and was appointed to the National Security Analysis Centre (NSAC) in October 2020.
In July 2021, he was appointed acting director of the NCSC, and he has now formally taken on that role permanently after an open procurement process.
Mr Browne was one of a number of applicants for the director job, which had been vacant for more than a year.
Following criticism that the pay was too low, at €89,000, the Government readvertised the position with a salary of €184,000.
Mr Browne has been involved in the centre since 2014, where he led the development of cybersecurity policy, including coordinating cyber strategies to date.
The Department of Communications said Mr Browne would have key responsibilities: coordination and management of national cyber security incident response; building national situational awareness of cyber risks and threats; and building resilience against cyberattacks.
Communications Minister Eamon Ryan, said: “As Ireland is a leading digital economy, protecting the cybersecurity of Government IT and critical national infrastructure is vital. Richard is an extremely highly qualified and high-calibre professional. He will bring his vast experience, to continue his work in building and leading the NCSC.”
Minister of State for Communications, Ossian Smyth, said: “There have been a number of significant cyber incidents in the past number of years, including the recent incidents affecting the HSE and other critical infrastructure internationally.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that the NCSC – led by Richard – has the appropriate level of resourcing to enable it deliver on its critical mandate.”
The appointment comes amid Government plans to 'beef up' the centre, in terms of its capabilities and resources, including new legislation giving it statutory powers, operational independence and plans for a new state-of-the art office.
Staffing levels are supposed to rise from 25 to 45 by the end of this year and to 70 within five years.
The department said there were currently open recruitment competitions for principal cybersecurity specialist (principal officer equivalent) and further competitions for senior management posts in the coming weeks.
Cybersecurity specialist (assistant principal equivalent) and cybersecurity responder (higher executive officer equivalent) competitions are also expected in the next few weeks.
The Government has agreed that the general scheme of a bill be prepared for Government approval.
The department said this would establish the NCSC on a statutory basis and bring clarity around its mandate and role.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner last November, Mr Browne said the HSE cyberattack was a “nightmare scenario”.
He predicted cyberattacks would become “messier and more complicated”.