American relations with Ireland are vital in protecting intelligence from cyber attackers - US Government Assistant Secretary for Cyberspace


Laura Lynott

Stephen Rae, Editor in Chief, INM with Jeanette Manfra, US Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security at the Dublin Information SEC2017 seminar in the RDS Concert Hall.
Photo: Tony Gavin 1/11/2017
Stephen Rae, Editor in Chief, INM with Jeanette Manfra, US Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security at the Dublin Information SEC2017 seminar in the RDS Concert Hall. Photo: Tony Gavin 1/11/2017

The US Government Assistant Secretary for Cyberspace has said American relations with Ireland and international “partners” are vital in protecting intelligence from cyber attackers globally.

Jeanette Manfra, from the US Department of Homeland Security, spoke of the need for a relationship with Ireland in sharing information with the US to help protect global companies and governments as she warned "defence" was the key step in controlling the internet.

Ms Manfra, speaking at the Dublin Information Sec 2017 at the RDS in Dublin, said the internet “was not built to be safe and secure,” and that if Ireland along with the rest of the world wanted to protect its intelligence it had to work as part of a “cyberspace ecosystem.”

Sharing information to protect the State and other countries, including the US from cyber attacks from “sophisticated actors” was a priority she said.

"This has been a long journey for us in the US but it is a task we have to do together," Ms Manfra told the conference.

"We have to do it internationally, we have a lot of information with partners round the world including Ireland and we’d like to share information here and receive information in the US - that’s a protected, trust based model.”

Irish Independent Technologies Editor Adrian Weckler with Tanaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald and Stephen Rae, Editor in Chief, INM at the Dublin Information SEC2017 seminar in the RDS Concert Hall.
Photo: Tony Gavin 1/11/2017
Irish Independent Technologies Editor Adrian Weckler with Tanaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald and Stephen Rae, Editor in Chief, INM at the Dublin Information SEC2017 seminar in the RDS Concert Hall. Photo: Tony Gavin 1/11/2017

The Trump administration had been working hard to form understandings between Government and private companies in combating hackers and those trying to steal private and sensitive information.

But more needed to be done to build an international team willing to share information on when systems had been hacked and how to protect governments and firms.

Read more: 'Huge opportunity' for Ireland to be at the leading edge of cyber-security industry, Tanaiste tells conference

“The Department of Homeland Security has been working on the counterterrorism side with the private sector but including the cybersecurity side,” Ms Manfra said.

“We have learned the fundamental principal of needing to have a public private partnership and a lot of it focuses on information sharing.

“Information sharing is about the government having access to information to defend networks and facilities.

Tanaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald gives the opening speach at the Dublin Information SEC2017 seminar in the RDS Concert Hall.
Photo: Tony Gavin 1/11/2017
Tanaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald gives the opening speach at the Dublin Information SEC2017 seminar in the RDS Concert Hall. Photo: Tony Gavin 1/11/2017

“If we hear of intelligence within our Government or partner governments, we go through a process to see (the attacker) is targeting a potential victim or entity.

“Many times they invite us in to do a hunt with them and through that partnership, we can identify what’s gone on and assist that entity with getting those bad guys off their networks, and we also find new indicators of what is going on.”

The Department of Homeland Security was working to “understand” where the points of access are available to those trying to hack into both State and private systems.

Governments and private companies had to look at protecting themselves by examining the potential entries into their web systems, including examining how information was shared and the tech firms used.

“In the US we’ve had a very good conversation in the presidential executive order for the Government and Department of Homeland Security to work with industry,” she said.

Businesses were now assisting the U.S administration in researching if there are any “gaps” in systems and how they could prevent cyber attacks.

“Can we better inform our intelligence community to provide warnings for threats?” she said.

Ms Manfra concluded by stating if Ireland and the rest of the world wanted the internet to be a positive place, it was vital such information was shared.