Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport

National Cyber Security Centre Review: Discussion

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I apologise for being late, as I was on other duties in the Dáil Chamber. It is great to be back here. We can juggle all of that again, which is great. I would like thank Pádraig, Anthony and all the team here who have allowed this committee to function well on a virtual basis over the past year.

I thank the Minister of State for being here with us today. Many people did not know that there was a NCSC until this year, when we needed to know. We have all been alarmed at what happened with the cyberattack. It had a devastating impact on front-line healthcare delivery because of how it got into the inner bowels of databases held by the HSE. We are talking about capacity to withstand cyberattacks in Ireland, but what led to it in the first place was probably a lack of capacity. We were somewhat akin to a Ford Fiesta chasing a supercharged car down the motorway in a police chase. We were lagging way behind.

Now the Minister of State has an important job. He is the right person for that job. We have looked at his CV. He is equipped with skills to lead this out and he now has a review which he has said he will implement, and that is good. It is all very good.

Lack of capacity, is what got us in trouble. I am concerned, without being a cybersecurity expert, that where we are going may still leave us short of capacity. The budget we will spend on cybersecurity is one 1,000th of what is spent in the UK. The UK will spend approximately £2 billion and has 1,000 staff. We will get ourselves, if I understand the executive report correctly, up to 70 staff over a five-year period. Cybersecurity does not follow international boundaries. We are vulnerable. The fact that we have been attacked this year probably shows the criminal underworld that Ireland has a bit of a soft underbelly insofar as attacks are concerned. I am really concerned. While we are now talking about building capacity and giving the Department money to increase and increase - and the Minister of State has a tough job to do and he will do it right - are we getting far enough? We have counterparts in Europe that have been taking the lead on this for many years. I made the point at this forum just a few months ago that Ireland is militarily neutral - that is a fact - but I do not think cybersecurity necessarily comes into the realm of neutrality. If there is capacity we can have in aligning ourselves with other European nations or indeed the UK to protect ourselves from a cybersecurity point of view, we should do that. Will we have enough capacity? This concerns me hugely. The UK will have 1,000 times more money invested in its system. It will have multiples of staff dedicated to fighting this. I just do not want us to be laggards. I want the Minister of State to say he is in talks with European counterparts on having an alliance in Europe to combat this.


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