THE Government is planning to simulate a cyber attack on its computer systems to see how IT staff cope with an assault from hackers.
The Department of Communications has asked companies to provide a "structured cyber-exercise" to test the response of key staff as part of an emergency planning exercise, the Irish Independent has learned.
It comes amid worldwide concern about hackers who illegally attempt to mine valuable and highly sensitive personal, financial and governmental data from computer systems.
Last month, hackers posted social security details, details of mortgage repayments and financial records of US celebrities and politicians including rapper Jay Z, actor Mel Gibson and US Vice President Joe Biden online.
South Korea is also investigating an attack on an internet service provider that brought down three tv stations and two banks, raising its army's level of alert due to concerns of North Korean involvement.
Now the Department of Communications is asking companies to develop a "national structured cyber-exercise" to test the response of key IT security staff to an attack.
The exercise will last one day, and the successful bidder will be required to compile a report that includes recommendations and "lessons learned".
Bids are due by April 16.
"The efficient functioning of the IT networks across government departments are a necessity for day-to-day government business," tender documents state.
"Any event that would cause one or more of these critical IT systems to fail or to partially fail would likely have significant impact on civil service business."
The Department of Communications says that "cyber-security preparedness exercises" have been identified as a priority because they can detect shortcomings in detection and response rates.
"It is important that all aspects of the exercise scenario must be technically realistic," the tender says, adding it should test the security of the computer network.
It also says that public relations will have to be managed in a "realistic manner" and accurate information provided to "appropriate bodies".
"The players should also be subjected to simulated media pressure," it adds.
Irish government websites have not been targeted in the past, but in January last year two websites operated by Justice and Finance were forced offline for several hours following a series of co-ordinated cyber attacks. No data was stolen.
A spokesman for the department said: "This is part of an ongoing emergency planning process we've had for years. It's going to test out different types of drills and procedures."