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Cyberattacks underscore need to safeguard an organisation

Donegal Education and Training Board leads way with quick response for nearly 200 phones

Recent high-profile cyberattacks have created heightened awareness of the need to protect all parts of an organisation’s network, including mobile phones.

One organisation to respond very quickly was Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB) which has adopted Three Ireland's 3Mobile Protect solution to secure the 197 mobile phones it provides to staff to enable them to access work emails while working remotely.

The solution, developed and powered by Irish company Corrata, protects smartphones and tablets from security threats, detects suspicious or unusual activity on every device, and stops the latest threats from texts, WhatsApp messages, social media scams or emails with infected links.

"Donegal ETB is very proactive when it comes to technology and security," says Three head of public sector sales Ken McGrath. "They were very quick to respond to the heightened threat level following the HSE attack. I think that attack crystallised the issue for a lot of people. The fraudsters and hackers have become very sophisticated and they profile cohorts of people really well before targeting them.


“I have received fraudulent messages myself and they were very convincing. I was only able to recognise them as scams because I wasn’t expecting a delivery from the courier company mentioned.”

The Donegal ETB IT team had noticed a big increase in security risks in the wake of the HSE attack. Almost every day, staff reported getting text-message phishing scams and links to malicious websites sent to their phones.

These messages were becoming more convincing, with some even written in Irish, targeting Gaeltacht-area schools. This increased the chances that someone might think they were genuine and mistakenly click on the link.

"Even for reasonably IT literate people, malware is so sophisticated now that we have to have a double-take," says Ciaran Cunningham, head of IT with Donegal ETB. "Cybersecurity had been a big concern and, like many organisations, the mobile side was overlooked. Teachers who are out on classes spend more time on their phones than they do on their laptops, so it was a gap that we didn't have covered."

Malware is a silent invader on mobile devices, he explains. "Most users might be totally unaware if something is happening in the background. I'm very conscious of the fact that staff will always use their phone for some personal use within reason, as well as for work.

“I genuinely feel that because we provided these phones, there’s a duty of care on us to ensure a level of protection that they may not be able to provide themselves. The HSE attack really brought this to a head. So, I made a decision: we are now in a position where we can’t wait around for something to happen.”

One of the key attractions of 3Mobile Protect is its ease of installation and set-up. It was deployed to all 197 employee devices within a few hours without needing an external service provider or taking up extra resources from the internal IT team.

Each mobile device makes about 4,000 internet requests a day and 3Mobile Protect acts as a firewall, protecting them whether the traffic is on mobile networks or wifi.

The improvement was almost immediate, says McGrath. “Minutes after going live, 3Mobile Protect identified one device that was infected with malicious software. It successfully blocked more than 5,000 separate network traffic requests, preventing data leakage and isolating the device while alerting the employee and administrator of the issue. Within the first 24 hours, the software detected and blocked 1,600 other attempts to breach security, such as by staff clicking links in faked SMS phishing messages.”


Another benefit is the level of detail available through 3Mobile Protect’s dashboard, which provides live reporting tools on what’s happening with the network and where any threats are being blocked.

“We are getting information that we never had before,” says Cunningham. “I think this is going to be a game changer for us. What I really like is that I get a full overview of everything. I can see at a glance whether the mobile devices have a good, fair or bad security score. 3Mobile Protect has been like putting a guard on the gates.”

And it protects without compromising users’ privacy. “The beauty of 3Mobile Protect is that it doesn’t access any personal data,” McGrath points out. “It only shows whether the device is compromised, whether the operating system is out of date, or whether there is a passcode enabled – but it can’t see the passcode itself. The customer’s personal data is completely safe.”

Cunningham concludes: “I didn’t realise when we started out, what we would gain from it. Since we put it in place, I’ve become a bigger fan of it.”