Device ban for Foreign Affairs staff

 

Officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs are being banned from using hi-tech gadgets such as BlackBerrys over fears that sensitive data could be spied upon.

Staff in other Government departments have full access to such technology, but IT bosses in Iveagh House believe top-secret e-mails or attachments could be intercepted by criminals.

One Department of Foreign Affairs official said: “Every other Government department allows its staff to use these devices so why can’t we? They’re also in use by authorities in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

“It doesn’t quite put us back to pencils and paper, but it’s a pity we can’t use them for efficiency and convenience.”

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs claims it is different from other Government departments because it regularly holds sensitive information on its files from other jurisdictions as well as Ireland.

Dublin-based officials correspond regularly via email with colleagues in classified areas such as the US State Department or security services.

Devices such as BlackBerrys and smartphones generally receive data through web servers located in the Britain and the United States, but their manufacturers have always insisted their systems are securely encrypted to avoid unauthorised access.

Last year the French Government banned parliamentarians from using wireless technology devices because it said the risk of data interception compromised national security.

TDs and Senators in Leinster House are currently undergoing a security audit of their computer equipment.

Laptops with personal customer information were stolen from Bank of Ireland and the Blood Transfusion Service Board in recent incidents.

PA