Thursday 24 October 2019

Ireland's location as HQ for multinationals 'leaves it vulnerable' to cyber attacks

John Carlin has warned over cybersecurity risks. Photo: Bloomberg
John Carlin has warned over cybersecurity risks. Photo: Bloomberg

Ailish O'Hora

The fact that Ireland is home to the European headquarters for numerous multinationals and tech firms makes it more vulnerable to cyber attacks and threats, according to the former assistant attorney general for the US Department of Justice's National Security Division.

John Carlin visited Ireland in 2015 in his Justice Department role with the Obama administration to meet with Irish Government officials and members of the Gardaí, because of the increasing number of US firms using the country as a base.

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"Ireland is increasingly vulnerable because it is a base," he said. "Prior to our Justice Department visit, we spotted the growing trend of tech firms locating to Ireland and we knew nation-state actors and crooks were going to follow. That is why we came here to discuss the issues at the government level."

He also acknowledged that the Irish data protection office has become more powerful and influential because of its role in regulating international technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, all of which have their European headquarters in Dublin.

The world is becoming increasingly vulnerable to more sophisticated state actors and individual criminals, he said.

And while governments, businesses and individuals are learning to fight back, they are still being outmanoeuvred by rogue nation states and criminals. In his recent book, Dawn of the Code War: America's Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat, Carlin explains that as our economies become more digitalised, from banking to medical developments, the potential targets for enemies also grow.

"For the past 25 years, we have moved from a period of analogue to digital and for a long time, connections were made through a protocol that was never designed with security in mind," he told the Sunday Independent. "Now we have the Internet of Things, bringing with it a new level of vulnerability."

A year on from the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data privacy rules, Carlin added that more and more businesses operating in Europe are focusing attention and resources on compliance.

However, he said that while the US is still a long way from a federal standard of data protection rules, the GDPR is one possible model that is being considered.

Carlin now chairs Morrison & Foerster's Global Risk + Crisis Management practice and co-chairs the National Security practice, where he advises industry-leading organisations in sensitive cyber and other national security matters.

He is a keynote speaker at the Secure Computing Forum, the cybersecurity and data protection conference run jointly by DataSolutions and Independent News & Media, which takes place on September 12 at Dublin's RDS, for information and tickets, click here.

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