Government doubles cyber security director salary and promises 45 more staff

National Cyber Security Centre to receive €2.5m increase in annual budget

The Department of Communications says the reforms are the result of an independent capacity review which was initiated before the HSE attack. File photograph: Ritchie B Tongo/ EPA

The Department of Communications says the reforms are the result of an independent capacity review which was initiated before the HSE attack. File photograph: Ritchie B Tongo/ EPA

 

Staff numbers at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) are to triple in the wake of the ransomware attack which crippled the HSE in May.

The role of NCSC director, which has been vacant for more than a year, will also be readvertised at a salary of €184,000, more than double the previous salary offer of €89,000.

The vacancy was the subject of significant criticism following the HSE attack, with experts warning the salary was far too low to attract a suitable candidate.

On Tuesday Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan announced the NCSC would expand from 25 staff to 45 over the next 18 months and to 70 within the next five years.

It will also receive a €2.5 million budget increase next year as part of a package of measures intended to counter a rising threat from cyber criminals, bringing its total budget to €7.5 million.

The Department of Communications said the reforms were the result of an independent capacity review which was initiated before the HSE attack.

Minister of State for Communication Ossian Smyth said they were being introduced against a backdrop of “a steady increase in the number of significant cyber incidents in the past number of years, including the recent incidents affecting the HSE and other healthcare providers internationally”.

He said individual organisations and citizens needed to take appropriate steps to protect themselves online but that the reforms would “ensure that NCSC has the appropriate mandate and resources to continue to support them”.

The role of NCSC director will be equivalent to that of a deputy secretary in the Civil Service “to reflect the scale and importance of the role and to attract experienced candidates”, the department said.

“The director will have responsibility for building and leading the NCSC, further developing the operational capacity and expertise of the NCSC and supporting the development of the policy and legislative framework relating to cyber security in the State.”

Legal mandate

The NCSC will also be placed on a statutory footing for the first time, and will be given formal powers and a legal mandate.

The centre will be accommodated in a single headquarters, along with the required security infrastructure, in the Department of Communications’ new headquarters in Beggars Bush in Dublin.

It will develop a five-year technology strategy which will examine its internal requirements and its relationship with academia and the technology industry, the department added.

Furthermore, it will initiate a cyber security graduate training programme, under which it will hire four computer science graduates each year on three-year contracts.

Mr Ryan called the reforms “a step change in the evolution of the NCSC”.

“As Ireland is a leading digital economy, protecting the cyber security of Government IT and critical national infrastructure is vital,” he said.

“The NCSC has an important role in gathering intelligence on cyber threats and in sharing that information and providing expert guidance. The Government is committed to ensuring that the NCSC has the appropriate level of resourcing to enable it deliver on its important mandate.”