Ireland finds itself on the front line of an escalating global cyber war as a leading IT security expert warned that North Korea, because of UN and US sanctions, has now turned to international cyber robbery as the primary means of funding its state and massive military.
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe admitted a critical element of the new White Paper on Defence will be rapidly upgrading Ireland’s capability of defending against cyber attacks.
The cost of cyber raids on Irish businesses has soared from €498,000 in 2014 to €1.7m in 2016 – with analysts warning it is likely to increase exponentially over future years.
PWC estimates that 44pc of all economic crimes now reported by Irish businesses involve cyber crime.
The number of cyber attacks suffered by Irish businesses doubled between 2012 and 2016, but that figure is expected to double or even treble because of recent ransomware attacks.
Ronan Murphy, of Smarttech247, said it was vital Ireland understands that it was now firmly on the front line of the cyber battle because of the number of US multinationals based here.
“There were always certain unspoken rules in terms of cyber warfare between countries and intelligence services,” Mr Murphy said.
“But North Korea has thrown the entire rule book out the window. It is basically engaging in cyber warfare to raise funds and to cause global chaos.
“There is no safe hiding place anymore. These aren’t ordinary criminal gangs – you are essentially dealing with state cyber intelligence units.”
He said that the WannaCry ransomware attack which caused global chaos earlier this year was exploited by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s cyber security services – but only netted a measly €120,000 for Pyongyang because of an unforeseen escape route built into the malware.
Investigators now believe the attempted €4.3m cyber raid carried out against Meath County Council in October 2016 originated in North Korea.
The funds were frozen in a bank account in Hong Kong just minutes before they were scheduled to be transferred.
The attempted fraud was carried out on October 28 and the council admitted it was “a highly sophisticated” attack.
The survey found that 26pc of businesses have suffered from cyber attacks in the past two years, with a further 18pc unsure if they have been affected.