Garda struggling to tempt cybercrime experts from private sector

‘Further resources’ required to keep pace with criminals, committee hears

Criminals are “changing tack” constantly in the area of cybercrime, Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll warned. Photograph: iStock

Criminals are “changing tack” constantly in the area of cybercrime, Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll warned. Photograph: iStock

 

Gardaí are struggling to hire cyber experts due to competition from the private sector where wages are much higher, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The Garda National Cybercrime Bureau (GNCB) has recently recruited a significant number of staff but requires additional personnel, Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll said.

The bureau is in the process of hiring civilian cyber experts “but we’re in competition with the private marketplace”.

During a briefing on online safety, Mr O’Driscoll told the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media that the Garda and the public sector cannot always match the remuneration offered in the private sector.

“So we have a difficulty there in acquiring the type of people we want, and then in retaining them. That is a fact of life and we have to deal with that.” He said part of the solution may involve hiring civilians on a short-term basis.

Highly-disturbing material

Mr O’Driscoll also noted people working in the cybercrime area frequently have to deal with highly-disturbing material, including child abuse imagery. Additional supports have been introduced for staff in this area, he said.

Cybercrime is developing at an incredibly fast rate, the senior Garda said, and criminals are “constantly” acquiring new technology. “The Garda will need more resources in the future to tackle this,” he said.

New decryption equipment which allows gardaí to break into password-protected devices has recently been purchased using funds from the European Commission’s Internal Security Fund. There are plans to make further purchases of equipment in this area and Mr O’Driscoll said he hopes money will be available from the same fund for this purpose.

“The nature of the equipment being used by criminals is growing in sophistication, so therefore we need to match it. And that is expensive.”

The Garda is also able to rely on international partners, including the European Cybercrime Centre (E3), “where resources are available on a more global basis”, he said. E3 recently set up a decryption centre which can be used by member states.

Seized devices

Criminals are “changing tack” constantly in the area of cybercrime. “Therefore, we need to make sure legislation to sufficient to tackle those involved.”

Mr O’Driscoll said Government proposals to give gardaí powers to demand passwords for seized devices, under penalty of prosecution, will be an “important piece of legislation”.

“We are constantly seizing media equipment we are required to search but we don’t necessarily have sufficient powers to access what’s on those devices.”

The legislation will provide for “significant” consequences for people who fail to hand over passwords.

“That is necessary because there is no point in seizing the media equipment that is so important to relevant investigations when we can’t access what’s on it,” Mr O’Driscoll said.