Tuesday, October 04, 2022

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Gardaí and government ministers have warned businesses to prepare for potential ransomware attacks, saying that the number of attacks targetting small and medium businesses has increased.

The government and Gardaí launched a joint awareness campaign on Tuesday for October’s European Cyber Security Month.

Along with ransomware, the campaign will be warning vulnerable people such as the elderly to be aware of phishing scams, where a message or a link asks for someone’s personal details.

Minister of State Ossian Smyth said that at the time of the HSE cyberattack, there was “a lot of concentration from criminals on the very large, what they call ‘big game hunting’, big targets”.

“So they would attack a multinational organisation, and try and get 10-20 million dollars out of them. Now that’s changed, and we’re seeing a lot of attacks on much smaller organisations, on SMEs.”

Assistant Garda Commissioner Paul Cleary said that there had been an increase in the number of ransomware attacks in Ireland.

“In the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau, we receive regular reports of ransomware infections that have locked down company networks and left victims unable to work or access their data.

“We’ve seen a lot of these cyberattacks can have a crippling effects on businesses of all sizes can lead to company being pressurised into making substantial payments to regain control of their data without any guarantee that we will get any back or that the data won’t be posted online anyway.”

He said that less than 10 per cent of companies that pay a ransom to cyber criminals will get all of their data back.

“There is always a concern that cyber criminals will have kept a copy and come back again for more money.”

He advised that companies and entities of all sizes have a plan in place for a potential cyberattack.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said: “We’re asking people to be prepared, to be aware of those risks.

“Be suspicious of anything that you get that you’re not aware of, back-up separately, make sure you’ve updated security, don’t mix your work and your personal equipment if possible, be it phones or laptops, report any suspicious criminal activity, and just think before you click.”

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