The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) was involved in a major international policing operation which helped dismantle the operations a group of prolific cybercriminals.
Operation Downbreaker involved the co-operation of law enforcement agencies from 13 countries, targeted the Hive Ransomware group — a group believed to have extorted hundreds of millions of dollars from victims across the world.
Ransomware is a type of malicious cyberattack in which a computer network is infiltrated, typically through a phoney email, text message or communication. Its files are then encrypted and rendered inaccessible.
Hackers will then demand some form of ransom payment — most often in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin — to decrypt the files and not publish their target's data online.
Hive also used a “ransomware-as-a-service” model, whereby its developers sold their ransomware code to other criminal groups, allowing them to carry out their own attacks.
According to the FBI, the group employed this arrangement to made it harder for authorities to identify and investigate their members.
Hive is believed to have been directly and indirectly responsible for hundreds of high-level cyberattacks in recent months, including some which targeted European multinational companies, government agencies and healthcare systems.
GNCCB officers participated in several Europol operational meetings and are now involved in the investigation of Hive ransomware incidents that targeted Irish victims.
Gardaí say they also provided analytical support and exchanged available information which aided criminal cases inside and outside the EU.
"This is an excellent result that has come from a lot of painstaking work carried out by gardaí in the Cyber Crime Bureau and together with our colleagues across the world," said Detective Chief Superintendent at the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau Barry Walsh.
"It underscores the immense value of co-ordinating a collective law enforcement response to emerging criminality."
Det Chief Supt Walsh said the Hive ransomeware group had caused "a great deal of distress to people in Ireland, and has upset their daily lives in more ways than one".
"This is not just about the monetary loss suffered by victims, but the significant disruption that a cyberattack causes," he said.
"We will further maximise on this work and stay focused on targeting the tactics and methods of cybercriminals and which affect victims here in Ireland.”