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Ireland wants to join cyber alliance in bid to halt hacks


Stock image of a hacker

Stock image of a hacker

Stock image of a hacker

Ireland is seeking to join an international agency that trains member countries on how to tackle threats posed by rogue states such as Russia.

The Cabinet signed off on plans to join the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats which consist of countries from the EU and Nato.

The group provides participating countries with the latest information on how to defend against cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns, and the manipulation of migration and energy security.

Russia has been accused of a wide range of attacks on democracies in recent years. Ireland is expected to second either civilian or security personnel to the group.

The agency, described sometimes as a “do-tank” rather than a “think-tank”, also provides training on tackling the misuse of social media to control political narratives and radicalise and recruit proxy actors.

“Hybrid threats have been defined as a mix of coercive and subversive activity, with both conventional and unconventional, military and non-military methods used by state or non-state actors to achieve specific objectives, while remaining below the threshold of war,” a Government source said.

The centre is located in Helsinki and was established in 2017 by nine countries, all of which were members of the EU or Nato.

The agency costs around €3.6m a year to run, with half of the funding provided by Finland where the centre was established under local legislation.

Excluding Finland, there are 31 other countries signed up to the centre, including all EU member states other than Ireland, Bulgaria and Malta.

Malta is at the advance stage of joining the agency and Ireland’s application will be considered by the centre’s steering committee next month.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney brought a memo to Cabinet seeking approval for Ireland to join the centre of excellence.

The US, Canada and Norway are also members of the group.

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The centre consists of more than 1,500 government officials, academics and private sector experts who carry out research on hybrid threats and establish how best to defend against them.

Separately, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar received Cabinet approval to ask the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch Ireland’s first satellite, EIRSAT-1, which has built and tested by University College Dublin (UCD). The satellite will be launched by the ESA from its base in French Guiana in the next few months.

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