Fianna Fail Seanad Spokesperson for Justice, Children and Youth Affairs, Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, has said that despite cybercrime growing at an unprecedented rate worldwide, the Government’s poor response leaves Ireland as a prime target for cyber hackers and criminals.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil indicate that there has been a further decrease in numbers allocated to the Garda Cyber Crime Bureau. In 2016 there were 29 Gardaí tasked with policing cyber-crime, that has now fallen to 23.

Commenting on the figures, the Dublin based Senator said, “An entire chapter of the Garda Síochána’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme is devoted to Cyber Security and Cyber Crime. In fact, a specific pledge was made to expand capabilities in this area through increased investment in technology and people.

“Fianna Fáil fought for improved Garda numbers and resources during its negotiations with Fine Gael and secured a commitment to increase Garda numbers to 15,000. It therefore beggars belief as to why a number of new recruits have not been appointed to roles in cyber security.

“Already this year we have experienced one of the most sustained and high profile global cyber attacks which posed potentially hugely damaging to the HSE network.

Clifford-Lee added, “Ireland’s weakened cyber security and the shortage of numbers policing the web, is gifting cyber criminals with even more opportunity to engage in highly profitable illegal online activities.

“Our national security is being left dangerously exposed by being so ill-prepared and under resourced to respond to an attack from cyber criminals. These figures indicate that Ireland is not adequately equipped to deal with an incident of cybercrime.

“Cyber criminals are skilfully establishing new ways to hide their activities online and law enforcement must quickly adapt to protect the public and ensure that our resilience to an attack by hackers or criminal gang is not jeopardised.

“If the Government’s lax attitude towards securing and monitoring our web network continues; computer based fraud, theft of personal information and data breaches will become more common occurrences for Irish businesses and organisations,” concluded Senator Clifford-Lee.