Wednesday 21 November 2018

'Gangs know Ireland is vulnerable and cyber crime is more valuable than drugs' - experts warn

Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Cyber crime is now worth more worldwide than the drugs industry and gangs are using this exploit our personal information for profit, an expert has warned.

People are being urged to protect themselves and their businesses by educating themselves about cyber security and also to invest in adequate protection.

Cyber security expert Donal O'Mahony told "If government bodies and companies don't put proper procedures in place soon then it's like leaving the keys in the front door of the bank and walking out.

"I've seen frightening situations during audits of businesses who might not have any passports or who haven't even done vulnerability scans, it's left them wide open and the problem is coming from management down.

"The big problem is that people aren't educated about cyber security but a lot of companies don't seem to want to know about cyber security or educating their employees because they don't want to have to spend that money.

"Gangs know Ireland is very vulnerable, we're not updating our software or putting proper security measures in place so it's easy to attack.

"Cyber crime is a profitable industry and it is now worth more worldwide than drugs."

Read More: Bad Rabbit: How to protect yourself from the ransomware attack sweeping across Europe

Donal, who owns Cyber Security Ireland, continued to say that people may not even know that their information has gotten into the wrong hands as businesses may try to cover it up.

He said: "Phishing scams are random attacks looking for files, passwords, credit card details. any sensitive information they can get their hands on.

"Hackers will encrypt your information and if you don't pay them a ransom in Bitcoin they threaten to publish it or to sell it on the dark web.

"This could affect information coming organisations such as medical professionals, solicitors, educational authorities, so very sensitive and personal information.

"Your information might have been taken and you wouldn't even know as so many companies would prefer to pay in Bitcoin and cover it up then go public about the attack in case it affects their business' reputation."

He also said that cyber gangs are more subtle these days then they were in the past, making their work harder to detect.

He said: "It's getting worse for definite, hackers used to use quite crude basic viruses but now it's more advanced,

"There are some fantastic monitoring systems out there now where you can see breaches taking place but a lot of systems can't.

"You will get an email that says your boss' name, you might click on the email thinking it's legitimate and within it is a link with more information and once you click that they'll have your information.

"We also see very sophisticated fronts of social media sites or payment sites, they look very realistic but if people were educated about this they know."

Read More: Cyber attacks on country's top 20 'magic circle' law firms surge 60pc

Revenue has also urged people to be vigilant about phishing scams.

A Spokeswoman told As you will know, phishing emails, claiming to come from banks, credit card companies, government departments, etc., and seeking personal information and/or credit card details, are not uncommon. 

"Revenue regularly posts warning messages on our website to alert customers, when we become aware of phishing scams or fraudulent emails purporting to come from Revenue (an example of which can be seen here).

"Revenue will never send emails requiring customers to send personal information via email or pop-up windows.

"Pages on our website which request personal information, are encrypted. After login, the taxpayer can verify that the page is secure by looking for a padlock icon in their browser."

Revenue has issued the following advice for people who are worried about cyber attacks:


  •  Revenue does not recommend sending personal information by email. Revenue’s secure online enquiry facility, called MyEnquiries, is a structured online contact facility that allows customers to securely send and receive correspondence to and from Revenue, instead of using email. Agents can also submit queries on behalf of their clients. New users can register for MyEnquiries on
  • Anyone who receives an email purporting to be from Revenue and suspects it to be fraudulent or a scam, should simply delete it.
  • Anyone who provided personal information in response to a phishing email should contact their bank or credit card company immediately.
  •  Anyone who is actually awaiting a tax refund should contact their local Revenue Office to check its status.
  •  Anyone who receives an email demanding payment of tax about which they have any doubt, should contact our Collector General's Division (1890 20 30 70).


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