Increased state of alert over cyberwarfare threat, says new NCSC chief


Ireland is on heightened alert over the cyber warfare fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the newly appointed director of the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC).

In conversation with the Irish Independent Big tech show podcastRichard Browne said “secondary” attacks could hit Irish organizations.

“We do not consider the probability or probability of a direct state-led attack on our infrastructure by the Russian state to be high,” Browne said.

“Our main risk is the possibility of a secondary or tertiary impact from attacks.

“That means if financial services or another sector in another jurisdiction is attacked by a state actor or ransomware group, there’s a pretty high likelihood of repercussions here.”

Mr Browne, appointed in January after an 18-month leaderless hiatus at the National Cyber ​​Security Centre, said a particular concern for Ireland was the spread of a new strain of ransomware.

This, he said, could be similar to NotPetya, which has over $10bn in damage.

“There have been some assaults [outside Ukraine] already,” he said, referring to the recent “wiper” malware attacks on Ukrainian government offices in the run-up to the Russian invasion.

“But what would really worry us the most is something like another NotPetya, where you have this fast-spreading malware that spreads across states without resorting to borders using its self-propagating mechanisms.”

Last year, Ireland suffered Europe’s worst cyberattack when a ransomware infection crippled HSE, crippled hospital systems and caused over €100m in damage.

“As the PwC report on this makes very clear, it was avoidable,” Mr Browne said.

“There was no magic in this incident, it was just a series of mistakes made by individuals and groups.”

He said that cyberattack awareness in Ireland has since improved.

“Not least the HSE [attack] has meant that we as a society are much better prepared for such incidents.

“Boards are much more aware of the problems involved. The people in charge of the funding organizations are also much more aware.”

He said the HSE was right in not paying a ransom to the criminal gang behind the attack.

“If you do that, you essentially fund criminal behavior and further attacks,” he said.

“Furthermore, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will ever get your data back. So it’s a very risky scheme.

“And once you’re in a situation like that, often all you can hope for is to recover from a backup.”

Mr Browne said the National Cyber ​​Security Center is currently undergoing a “dramatic” increase in staff and resources, with the target of surpassing the original target of 45 people by the end of the year.

“It’s a multiple of any situation we’ve had in the past,” he said.

“Our workforce will increase significantly.

“The only question we’re going to have is finding the people because the skills we need are often very individual and quite unique.

“We can only steal so many people from the Defense Forces over time.”

To hear the full interview with NCSC Director Richard Browne, stream or download The Big Tech Show podcast from any podcast player or at Increased state of alert over cyberwarfare threat, says new NCSC chief

Fry Electronics Team

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