Saturday 24 March 2018

Cyber security expert: 'Criminals don't care about nationality, all countries should be worried about ransomware'

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Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A leading cyber security expert has said that all countries should be concerned about ransomware as criminals don't "discriminate" and "every country is under threat".

Cyber security expert, Dinos Kerigan-Kyrou, told said that "criminals don't care about nationality".

"Ransomware does not discriminate. It can attack any computer anywhere; the criminals really don't care about nationality."

Mr Kerigan-Kyrou was giving his expert view in wake of cyber attacks which are making their way across Europe and are being treated by the HSE as a “major incident.”

A suspected case of the ransomware has been identified in a computer system in Ireland at a HSE funded centre.

However, the infection at the centre in Wexford has been isolated and prevented from spreading.

"Their motive is money. Thankfully their motive is not to crash health systems  - although that can of course happen as a byproduct of their reckless actions," said Kerigan-Kyrou.

Earlier today, the HSE said they were treating the cyber attacks  as a "major incident".

A HSE spokesperson told "On foot of that meeting it was decided that, as a protective measure, the HSE’s Office of the Chief Information Officer would remove all external access to the HSE's Network to protect the integrity of clinical IT systems throughout our Health System."

Mr Kerigan-Kyrou, praised the HSE for their actions.

"The HSE is doing absolutely the right thing, but it's very hard to completely isolate computers and networks. There's no 'separate' internet for critical infrastructure such as health. It's the same internet you or I use. Trying to remove a computer from the network is called 'air gapping' but in reality it's incredibly hard to do as there is almost always a link somewhere."

Mr Kerigan-Kyrou said his he concerned about the the theft of Intellectual Property from the companies that underpin the Irish economy.

"My biggest concern is the long-term nature of such attacks - in fact it’s multiple attacks which are happening day in day out in countries that have industry with huge research and development, such as Ireland, Germany, and the US.

"This is not like ransomware where your computer shuts down; this is much more insidious and long-term. You don’t realise it’s happening. And because we don’t see it no one talks about it."

When asked if there was an overlap between terrorism and ransomware, Kerigan-Kyrou said that terrorists are using the internet to catch all governments "by surprise".

"It is perfectly possible that there may be overlap between terrorist financing and ransomware.

"However, based only on the open source information I've seen I do not believe that terrorists are the primary drivers of this particular situation. Everything seems to indicate that the primary motive is profit so it seems to indicate criminal activity only.

"I think terrorists would have used these vulnerabilities in a different way for different purposes."

Mr Kerigan-Kyrou also said that individuals could be targeted by ransomware attacks.

"Cybersecurity is the responsibility of each and every person. It is not anymore an 'IT' issue. To think of it only as a problem for the 'IT person' is actually very dangerous and opens up your company or organisation to huge cybersecurity danger."

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