Taoiseach forced to defend level of cybersecurity spending

Aontú TD Peader Tóibín says attack was ‘monstrous crime’ that hit most vulnerable in society

Taoiseach  forced to defend the level of spending on cybersecurity after a claim that funding for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has been “paltry”. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach forced to defend the level of spending on cybersecurity after a claim that funding for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has been “paltry”. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was forced to defend the level of spending on cybersecurity after a claim that funding for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has been “paltry”.

Aontú TD Peader Tóibín raised the ransomware attacks on the health service in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

He said the attack was a “monstrous crime” that hit the most vulnerable in Irish society.

Mr Tóibín said the Government has a duty of care to safeguard and protect citizens’ health and their personal data and this is particularly important in Ireland which he said hosts 30 per cent of the data that exists in the EU.

The Meath West TD claimed that the NCSC which currently has no director has been left “rudderless” and also that it is “homeless” without a permanent premises.

He said the €89,000 wage linked to the director role is “lower than a backbench opposition TD”, that the NCSC has 25 staff, and its budget of €5 million for this year is less than the Department of the Taoiseach spent on PR in 2020.

Mr Tóibín also said that former HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien said that the health organisation’s spending on IT security is “about a quarter of what you would expect compared to other health systems.”

He said that £95 million was spent to deal with the cost of a similar cyberattack on the NHS in the UK and £210 million was spent strengthening their cybersecurity afterwards.

Patient services

Mr Tóibín asked when patient services would return and what the costs here will be.

Mr Martin said what happened was “an attack on our health service by criminals” and there should be “no truck or any quarter given to criminals of this kind who would undermine patient safety”.

He insisted that “all the right people are in the right place in responding to these criminals.”

Mr Martin defended funding for cybersecurity saying funding for the NCSC was “trebled” in the Budget while denying it’s rudderless and suggesting its description as homeless is “melodramatic”.

Mr Martin insisted there is “pretty good capacity within our system in terms of the quality of the personnel available that is dealing with this particular issue.”

He said it’s being “dealt with in the correct manner - contain the problem, remedy, restore and protect.”

He said it will “take some time to get services fully restored”.

Mr Tóibín argued that the investment in the NCSC is “paltry with regards to the responsibilities they hold” and asked when the Government will “invest properly”.

Mr Martin said that since he has become Taoiseach he’s been “very focused on the overall national cybersecurity threat”.

He said funding has been “significantly increased” for both the NCSC and the HSE.

He told the Dáil that current spending on ICT in the HSE has gone from €45 million to €83 million and capital spending from €85 million to €120 million.

He said the cybersecurity is an “ongoing battle” and it “isn’t going to go away any time soon.

“We will be constantly reviewing increasingly resources, increasing capacity over the next number of years to deal with these criminals.”