One in five Irish firms hit by data breaches this year

Philip Nolan, partner at Mason Hayes & Curran; Seamus Carroll, head of the data protection unit in the Department of Justice and Equality; and Sarah Stephens, head of cyber & commercial E&O at Aon Risk Solutions, at a conference held by Aon Risk Solutions

John Mulligan

Over a fifth of Irish companies have been hit by data breaches in the past 12 months and nearly three-quarters of firms are exposed to the risk of hacking through their use of third parties, a new report claims.

Aon Risk Solutions told a conference on cyber security in Dublin that two-thirds of Irish companies are also allowing their employees to access confidential company files via their own electronic devices.

And although the risk of having data compromised is high, Aon said that only 22pc executives at board or management level are actively addressing cyber-risk management.

Aon said that based on data inputs from more than 1,200 Irish companies into the Aon Cyber Diagnostic Tool, it found that 92pc of firms are exposed to cyber risk - a figure that's higher than the global average, which stands at 86pc.

"The digital interconnectivity of business operations, suppliers and customers in today's world has resulted in organisations being increasingly exposed to cyber-attacks," said Sarah Stephens, who is head of cyber risk for EMEA at Aon Risk Solutions.

"As the technology sector evolves and companies become more reliant on cloud computing, big data and social media the cyber risk threat continues to grow," she added.

There have been a number of high-profile data breaches in recent years.

During the summer, gambling firm Paddy Power revealed that it had been the target of a massive hack in 2010, which resulted in the theft of personal details belonging to over 649,000 customers.

This week, US home improvement chain giant Home Depot said that it may have been the subject of a data breach.

US banks including JP Morgan were also recently hacked, with a huge amount of data stolen. It's suspected the hacks were backed by the Russian government.