Belfast Telegraph

US and EU links 'make Ireland a target for cyber-crime'

By Sean Duffy and Louise Kelly

The island of Ireland faces threats to its cyber-security from external operators given its role as a key gateway for US and EU trade, an expert has claimed.

Joseph Carson, a cyber-security strategist at Thycotic, told the Dublin InfoSec 2016 conference at the city's RDS that the island's position as a key location in the international supply chain between the EU and the US made it a strong target for forces intent on disrupting trade between the two areas.

Many US companies - such as call centre giant Concentrix - have made Northern Ireland their European base.

Mr Carson issued his warning to the crowd at Ireland's first annual cyber-security conference held at the RDS.

"Ireland is at risk of cyber-attack because of its key Atlantic position," he told the event.

"Since Ireland is a key supply chain partner of US business, it is in the firing line for a major cyber-attack. The best defence is to decentralise."

Mr Carson used the example of Estonia, a country which has been at the forefront of migrating to a digital society.

While the country made its rapid digital transformation in the early years of the 21st century, the level of State information available online made it vulnerable to attacks from outside agents.

Mr Carson insisted that the best way to combat the threat of cyber-attacks was to build digital alliances with allies overseas, which would mitigate the chances of an individual country becoming compromised completely by attackers.

Mr Carson said that while cyber-terrorists were unlikely to target government bodies specifically, companies were likely to come under attack in the coming years.

"Food supplies, fuel, utilities, and medical services are all potentially at risk from major cyber-war," he told the conference.

"You have to be careful about the remedial response to these cyber-attacks - the action taken can cause further problems."

The cyber-threat landscape is constantly shifting and, against that backdrop, a number of experts in the field gathered to speak at the conference on a range of related issues.

Virtual payments security, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robots, ransomware and the internet of things were just some of the topics under discussion.

The Republic's Deputy Prime Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, opened the event by saying that there were currently "huge challenges" around the issue of cyber-security.

And Mr Carson said Ireland should use its role as a key technology hub to "step up" to the challenges posed by cyber-threats within the EU.

He also said the country should become more involved with Nato's ongoing fight against the problem.

Earlier this month, a cyber-raid on Tesco Bank resulted in £2.5m being stolen from 20,000 customer accounts.

But experts have urged businesses and consumers to up their game to defeat cyber-criminals - and treat theft of money as a result of cyber-crime as they would theft of any other kind.

Other speakers at yesterday's event, which was supported by Belfast Telegraph parent company INM, included WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison and Eir chief information officer Erik Slooten.

Belfast Telegraph