Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport

National Cybersecurity: Discussion

Mr. Pat Larkin:

In response to the Senator's initial question, there are three countries that are notable. Estonia, as the Senator pointed out, had a compelling event and responded appropriately, as he has outlined. Estonia has become a recognised centre of excellence. It has adopted the strategy that it must survive particularly malevolent state action, and maintain society and the delivery of digital government in the event of a significant attack or influence. Estonia is a base model.

The UK has probably come back to its national cybersecurity strategy two or three times but has made considerable progress this time around. The cyber tsar it has put in is a recognisable individual, Mr. Ciaran Martin, who has added an awful lot of coherence. He has added coherence in overall policy. The UK has engaged in things such as active cyber defence whereby not only is it sitting in defence but it is targeting and taking down malicious domains and sites within its organisation in order to improve the cyber hygiene of government across the board. The UK offers services that various public bodies would use, etc., and provides a significant level of investment. There are lessons to be learned from how the UK has approached this matter the second or third time around.

I appreciate there may be reservations about other aspects of its society but Israel has done well from a cyber perspective and we should look at that. Israel has imperatives around foreign policy and national security and it has, therefore, delivered a collaborative approach between the military and society. I accept it is a militarised society and there is, therefore, an acceptance that cyber is an important pillar. From a government perspective, Israel has led initiatives such as thinking outside the cyber box, etc. There have been huge levels of innovation.

I was part of a buying mission when I was in the Defence Forces back in the late 1990s and I saw that level of collaboration between industry, users and military where literally some industry players had co-resident development ongoing with the military and the military was consuming their development of technology and then using that to export internationally. In terms of a security imperative and a collaborative national approach, Israel is an example, appreciating all the other reservations about policy and everything else that is going on there. Those are three examples we could look to build a collaboration, to create the cyber tsar and the leadership and from a national imperative to digital society to survive malign foreign intervention.


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