Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications Timmy Dooley TD says the on-going global cyber-attack on State computer networks shows that Ireland needs to treat the issue of cyber-security as a top priority.

Deputy Dooley made the comments as cyber security experts outlined that they believe up to 75,000 computers in 99 countries have been hit by the ransomware attack, making it one of the largest cyber security attacks ever to occur.

Deputy Dooley commented, “This is a deeply worrying situation and clearly demonstrates the destructive capabilities that organised cyber-criminal gangs can employ to bring down computer networks. Private companies and organisations have been the subject of these ransomware attacks in recent years, but this represents the first time we have seen such a large scale global attack against State computer networks.

“The attack has caused considerable damage to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK and has led to operations being cancelled, the temporary closure of Emergency Departments and difficulties in dispatching ambulances in certain areas. It’s effects are being felt globally, including Northern Ireland, and transport networks in Germany have been hit alongside electricity distributors in Spain. Private companies have also been targeted such as telecoms giants and global delivery operators. The attack has caused significant disruption to those that rely on State services and will have a profound social and economic impact.

“Fortunately, Ireland seems to have been spared from the attack for now, but this seems to be down to luck more than any other factor. It’s positive to see that the National Cyber Security Centre is monitoring the situation and it’s important that ongoing updates are provided regarding the security of Irish computer networks.

“This attack highlights the need for increased investment in cyber security, both to protect computer systems operated by the State and those controlled by private companies. It’s likely that we will see an increase in such attacks in the months and years ahead and it’s important that the Government takes every step necessary to protect Ireland against such intrusions by global cyber-criminal gangs.

“It seems the failure to apply a critical operating system update left the NHS particularly vulnerable to this attack. I’m calling on the National Cyber Security Centre to undertake a comprehensive security audit of all State controlled computer networks to ensure every step has been taken to protect against such a ransomware attack. This audit should also focus on whether the hardware and computer operating systems used by State run agencies are in line with the latest security requirements,” concluded Deputy Dooley.