Cyber attack a wake-up call, says security boss as firm creates 120 jobs in Belfast
The boss of a US tech firm creating 120 Belfast jobs says a huge cyber attack on the NHS and global computer systems last week was a "wake-up" call.
And the announcement that California's Anomali is adding a new European base to Belfast also came yesterday as the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) says it is investing £38.5m in research and development in Northern Ireland.
More than 300,000 machines based across 150 countries were infected with the WannaCry virus, crippling organisations from government agencies to multinational companies.
Meanwhile, Anomali has already added 20 jobs, and says the rest of the posts will be hired by 2019. The average salaries are around £34,500.
The firm provides cyber security solutions to help organisations identify and respond to security threats.
"We looked at other places in Europe, and also other continents, but a big focus on Europe. After looking at several cities, we decided on Belfast. We looked at places like Budapest, for example," Anomali's chief executive Hugh Njemanze said.
"The character of the people, what we heard about it, and the employee dynamic. The fact that there is a very strong cyber-security talent pool, both already in place, and to be created by the CSIT programme."
And speaking about the latest major worldwide hack, he said: "It is a very strong wake-up call for people to understand that... it probably will happen to me. This will result in people taking the threat and preparations more seriously."
Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said that "Northern Ireland is enjoying a growing international reputation as a region of expertise and knowledge in cyber security".
The announcement further bolsters the province's credentials in cyber security.
Just last year US firm Black Duck announced it was adding 58 jobs here. And speaking about the latest major cyber attack, Dr Godfrey Gaston, director of CSIT, said: "We have to get it right every single time, and the bad guys have to get it right just once.
"You can try to be one step ahead, but they only need to go down once. The attack at the weekend wasn't particularly sophisticated. The machines weren't being patched. That's just a housekeeping issue."
The organisation, based at Queen's University, encourages collaboration among academics, researchers and engineers to accelerate the results of cyber and physical security research, through to commercial application.
Invest NI has offered CSIT £5.5m of assistance to support the next stage of its research.
It's also received investment from Innovate UK, Queen's University, private companies - such as Allstate and Equiniti - and additional grants.