There is a “huge opportunity” for Ireland to be at the leading edge of the emerging cyber-security industry, Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Frances Fitzgerald told delegates at a leading industry conference in Dublin yesterday.
The cyber-security industry employs around 6,000 people here, and the top five worldwide security software companies have operations in Ireland, Minister Fitzgerald said at the Dublin Information Sec 2017 cyber-security event hosted by Independent News and Media (INM).
The ever-increasing threat from hackers means there is an opportunity to create a self-sustaining cyber-security ecosystem here, one where indigenous small and medium enterprises and multinationals could work together, the Tánaiste said.
This represents a chance to make Ireland a real centre of excellence in this space, she added.
The keynote speaker at the event, Jeanette Manfra, who is US Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cyber Security and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, told delegates that “industry is really on the front lines on this… The challenge for industry is to understand systemic risk from a cyber perspective.”
Delegates at Dublin Information Sec, sponsored by eir Business, a Cisco Gold Partner, heard a panel of Irish and international cyber-security specialists highlight risks and propose solutions to security breaches and infection.
The event was chaired by Adrian Weckler, Technology Editor at INM.
Expert sessions included: looking inside the head of a hacker; improving an organisation’s security health; response and defence; GDPR; Brexit; the US government approach to cyber-security and managing risk; and whistleblowing.
Ethical hacker Mike G told business leaders bluntly that employees remain the big risk to data systems. “The weakest part of security is us,” he said.
Mike G, who helps organisations fight cyber threats, said that humans are very easily hacked while bad systems design and insecure policies leave individuals people and organisations vulnerable.
Spoofing texts, calls and emails are among the most common ways in which people and companies can get hacked, he said.
The outgoing chief information officer at the HSE and chief officer at eHealth Ireland, Richard Corbridge, said staff in Ireland had worked through the weekend in May this year in response to the so called WannaCry ransom attack, which targeted medical systems across Europe, notably the NHS in Britain.
“With WannaCry it was clear we had to act quickly.
“Had something like this landed on a Sunday night in autumn with flu and the week ahead it could have taken years [for the HSE] to recover,” he said.
“We mobilised 38 people to work the weekend and made sure the elements under threat were protected,” Mr Corbridge said, but the biggest fear for him was whether individual hospitals and GPs would be impacted.
“The worst case scenario for the HSE was that we lost any hospitals – the Irish healthcare system cannot afford for any hospitals to close their doors,” Mr Corbridge told the audience.
Preventative measures taken by the team that weekend included taking down the external email for the whole of the HSE to protect it from WannaCry.
In the end only one HSE facility, in Wexford, was affected, he noted, adding that after the incident the HSE has a better way of handling such events.
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