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Sunday 18 February 2018

Irish firms hit by surge in hacking attempts

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

IRELAND has seen a "huge" increase in hacking attempts in the past 12 months, according to one of the country's leading internet security authorities.

The number of reported web attacks on Irish companies has jumped from 432 to 5,802 in the space of a year, said the Irish Reporting and Information Security Service (Iriss-Cert).

"It's a huge rise," said Brian Honan, head of Iriss-Cert and a special adviser on internet security to Europol's European Cybercrime Centre. "Although we have more sources reporting security incidents to us than last year, the volume of reports far outstrips the rise in sources."

Mr Honan said that typical incidents include hacking attacks such as the one that recently hit Clare-based firm Loyaltybuild and more than 80,000 Irish credit card holders.

But he said that the biggest rise in web attacks is coming in so-called denial of service attacks. This is where hackers try to use company computers and servers to launch much bigger attacks on bigger corporate or institutional targets.

"The rise in this type of attack is huge," he said. "Two years ago, it was largely limited to criminals trying to get into your computer to infect malware or launch attacks on individual systems. Now we're seeing company servers and even data centres get hit."

Mr Honan said that the thousands of security attacks reported to Iriss-Cert reveal computer IP addresses, which can sometimes identify a firm's website.

The organisation reports this activity in confidence to hosting companies or to the companies affected, which can then address the problem. "Often, they have no idea they are being targeted," he said.


Last week saw revelations emerge about the biggest hacking attack to hit Irish online shoppers, when Ennis-based Loyaltybuild was hacked.

This exposed the credit card details of over 80,000 Irish people and the personal information of over 1.1 million Europeans.

Two Irish banks, AIB and Permanent TSB, have since reported customers hit by attempted fraudulent activity, which they say may be linked to the attack.

The incident is currently being investigated by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the Garda Bureau Of Fraud Investigation.

Irish Independent

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