Taoiseach: Revenue Commissioners and HSE at cyber attack risk

State has ‘responsibility’ to deal with attacks given large number of technology companies

A consultation paper had been published on the proposed security measures and incident reporting guidelines that operators of essential services would have to meet.

A consultation paper had been published on the proposed security measures and incident reporting guidelines that operators of essential services would have to meet.

 

Public bodies such as the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection and the HSE are at real risk of cyber attack, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acknowledged.

He added that the State had a “particular responsibility” to counter such attacks because of the “many technology companies and data centres based in Ireland”.

However, he said the State had identified cyber security as an issue of national importance and “we have steadily been building our cyber security capacity to ensure the State is protected against threats of security”.

The Taoiseach was responding to questions about weekend cyber attacks on Government departments and agencies including the HSE, the Oireachtas, Safefood and some local authorities.

Mr Varadkar believed, however, that Ireland had been spared the cyber attacks suffered by other countries.

He noted the recent “Wannacry” attack on the NHS in Britain which Ireland had “thankfully avoided”.

‘Limited impact’

Mr Varadkar believed, however, that Ireland had been spared the cyber attacks suffered by other countries. He said that “by comparison with other jurisdictions the impact in Ireland has been limited”.

Mr Varadkar added: “Recent cyber security incidents that have occurred globally were responded to and contained in Ireland but there was no cause for complacency.”

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin asked what action the National Cyber Security Centre had take in response to the attacks and if the EU directive to change how EU members respond to such attacks would be transposed into Irish law by May 9th.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the attacks were “simply the latest manifestation of the vulnerability of the State’s internet systems to external attack”.

Mr Howlin said the Defence Forces had just two personnel seconded to the Department of Communications to deal with the issue on an ongoing basis.

Threat to democratic debate

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the Taoiseach to accept a Bill the Government had rejected which was introduced by his party colleague James Lawless to deal with the threat to democratic debate posed by illegally funded disinfestation campaigns using social media.

Mr Martin said that the Government’s rejection of the Bill made Ireland “an outlier in Europe in saying that it is not interested in taking legislative action to protect its basic electoral financing and transparency laws”.

The Taoiseach said the National Cyber Security Centre was relatively new, based in UCD and has about 20 staff. He added that significant progress had been made in transposing the EU directive including measures such as creating a list of potential operators of essential services.

A consultation paper had been published on the proposed security measures and incident reporting guidelines that operators of essential services would have to meet.

The Taoiseach said legislation to transpose the directive into domestic law would be ready by the end of March.