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Friday 6 December 2019

Government sites hit in new wave of cyber attacks

Department of Justice. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Department of Justice. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

A wave of cyber attacks has hit Ireland, knocking Government websites offline and disrupting one of the country's biggest phone companies.

The attacks, which have yet to be pinned on a culprit, took down the websites of the Department Of Justice, the Courts Service and the Central Statistics Office for several hours yesterday.

Attacks also rendered mobile phone operator Meteor's website inaccessible for two hours, a day after parent company Eir's website had been hit.

The so-called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks did not result in any reported theft of data or access to sensitive personal information.

However, they have left Government IT chiefs scratching their heads as to who might be responsible.

"A number of attacks are targeting Government infrastructure," said a spokesman for the Government's Chief Information Officer yesterday.

"These attacks have resulted in periodic disruption that has resulted in a number of Government websites becoming unavailable to the public.

"We implemented our contingency plans, which are designed to minimise this disruption," he added.

"As with all DDoS attacks, it is not possible to identify the exact source of the attack."

The spokesman said that attacks continued throughout yesterday, but he could not say whether they would continue through the weekend.

A DDoS attack is where a website is overwhelmed by too many online requests at once. It is typically used by organisations such as Anonymous, the international activist group that targets political, financial and terrorist organisations.

DDoS attacks do not themselves result in the theft of data, but can sometimes be used as a smokescreen for other cyber attacks such as hacking.

The attacks come days after the website of the National Lottery was brought to its knees with a similar attack and was unavailable for two hours.

"Indications are that technical issues were as a result of a DDoS attack affecting our communications networks," said Lotto operator Premier Lotteries Ireland at the time.

Irish Independent

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