Expert says big name Irish firms hacked up to seven times a week

Dublin conference will hear cyberattacks from China and Russia at unprecedented level

Big name companies in Ireland are being successfully hacked by criminals between two and seven times a week, according to a Cork-based security expert.

Ronan Murphy, chief executive of Smarttech, said his engineers – "white-hat hackers" – are managing to breach the systems of "household names" that spend millions of euros on security.

He will speak at the ZeroDayCon cybersecurity conference at the Convention Centre in Dublin on Tuesday, March 7th.

While Mr Murphy concedes that the security industry could be accused of selling “FUD” – fear, uncertainty and doubt – he insists the ferocity and the escalation of attacks on businesses is unprecedented.


This includes malware injections and regular, daily attacks from Russia and China.

“Just yesterday we saw an orchestrated attack on a lot of our Irish enterprise customers from a piece of Russian malware. These were all targeted attacks, meaning that organised criminals sat down in a boardroom in Russia and decided to target Ireland. They probably took the Business and Finance top 1,000 companies and targeted each one of them,” he says.

He believes his own security operations centre is the first to implement IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system, to analyse and interpret data in a “human” way, to identify threats.

Mr Murphy estimates the hacker threat to businesses was worth about €1.6 billion globally last year, but says this figure is growing exponentially.


“Over the course of the year, we pay thousands and thousands of euros in ransom in bitcoin to these criminals for our customers. We will buy bitcoin and conduct the transaction for them. It’s becoming a huge problem and the rate of acceleration is unprecedented.”

Noting the recent targeting of scores of Irish websites, including the NTMA site, by a Kurdish hacker, Mr Murphy suggests more than 20,000 websites here and in the UK may be vulnerable.

Speakers at the Dublin event next week will include Kurt Pipal of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterintelligence and cyberintelligence division, as well as representatives of companies such as AIB, Laya Healthcare, Kerry Group, Abtran, Dairygold, IBM, Microsoft and Glen Dimplex.

Mr Murphy said sessions would also explore governance, risk and compliance issues.

“The high-speed train coming down the tracks at Irish business is the European Union’s general data protection regulation,” he said.

“Ireland is so brutally unprepared for that it is just not even funny. The level of communication from the Government is just not at the races.”