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


Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

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
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
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
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

This was the key message from an Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald at the Irish Independent's annual Dublin Information SEC cyber-security event.

While noting the many challenges poised by cyber and malware, the Minister said that there was a huge opportunity for Ireland to be at the leading edge of the global cyber-security industry.

Currently the cyber-security industry employs around 6,000 people here, and the top five worldwide security software companies are located in Ireland.

With the ever-increasing threat from hackers, Minister Fitzgerald said that there was an opportunity to create a self-sustaining cyber-security ecosystem here, one where indigenous small and medium enterprises and multinationals could work together. This represented a chance to make Ireland a real centre of excellence in this space.

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

Over the course of the event, which took place in a packed RDS, a number of speakers highlighted the threats facing people and businesses.

Ethical hacker Mike G issued a particularly sobering note to businesses and people alike, stating that "the weakest part of security is us".

In what was a very lively talk, Mike G, who helps oganisations in their fight against cyber security and hacking, said that humans are very easily hacked. In addition, bad systems design and/or insecure security policies can leave people and organisations vulnerable to hacking.

Mike G listed spoofing texts, calls, emails as among the ways in which people and companies can get hacked.

A more positive note came from Richard Corbridge, out-going chief information officer at the HSE and chief officer at eHealth Ireland, who, when discussing the WannaCry ransom attack in May this year, was quick to praise his team, saying that there were members of staff working all weekend of the incident occurring to protect the healthcare system.

"With WannaCry it was clear we had to act quickly, had something like this landed on a Sunday night in Autumn with flu and the week ahead it could have taken years [for the HSE] to recover," he said.

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 fact that the incident occurred on a Friday evening in May made it easier for the HSE to respond with minimal disruption. "We mobilised 38 people to work the weekend and made sure the elements under threat were protected," Mr Corbridge said, but the biggest fear for him was around Monday morning and whether hospitals and GPs would have been impacted.

"The worst case scenario for the HSE was that we lost any hospitals - the Irish healthcare system cannot afford for any hospitals to close their doors," Mr Corbridge told a captivated audience.

Preventative measures taken by the team that weekend included taking down the external email down for the whole of the HSE to protect it from WannaCry.

Overall only one HSE facility in Wexford was affected from the WannaCry attack.

In terms of lessons learned from the incident Mr Corbridge said that the HSE now has a better way of handling such an incident.

In addition, it has a better understanding of the need to work with partners in order to protect the HSE and its supply chain.

Going forwards Mr Corbridge said that the HSE is embracing technology, with Ireland becoming the first EU country to have a Cloud First policy for health - a strategy that other countries have followed.

Paolo Perfetti, CITO, eir and speaker at the event said that cyber security is increasingly becoming an important consideration for businesses and organisations today.

"This is evident from the spotlight it was given here this year. It’s obvious more and more business leaders are recognising the threat posed by cybercrime and have even come to expect an attack," he said. 

"We know that the trends showing an increase in cybercrime are not likely to reverse so it’s encouraging to see that business are starting to take the threats seriously and are actively looking to protect themselves"

Cliona Carroll, Sponsorship and Events Manager, INM added: "Dublin Information Sec has become a key event for Irish businesses and organistions, addressing cyber security threats and underlining the tools and technologies to protect against attack. We are delighted to be joined by sponsor eir Business, a Cisco Gold Partner, for the second annual cyber security conference."

The event was chaired by Adrian Weckler, Technology Editor INM.