‘Hackers don’t need to try very hard when targeting Irish companies’

‘Hackers don’t need to try very hard when targeting Irish companies’

Cybercrime targeting business is expected to increase this year, despite companies and State bodies facing its most “disastrous” year in 2021.

That’s the view of cybersecurity expert Ronan Murphy, who said businesses owners need to start taking cybersecurity as seriously as they do their physical security, such as locks and alarms on their doors.

He said that last year “was beyond any shadow of a doubt the most disastrous year ever experienced when it comes to cybersecurity”.

“The scale of the cyberattacks, the amount of people targeted through government and corporations was really unprecedented,” Mr Murphy said.

Headquartered in Cork, his company, Smarttech247, doubled its revenue in 2021 as the threat of cybercrime rose for businesses. The firm generated approximately €8m in revenue last year, compared to €4.8m in 2020, and took on around 200 new clients in Ireland as businesses tried to combat the threats.

From his experience, one of the sectors targeted most by cybercrime is the legal sector as there is “a lot of low-hanging fruit”. This is because, even if the firm is small, it may still handle a lot of money due to its work around conveyance or probate.

“I don’t think there is a sector anywhere globally that’s not targeted now. It’s unrelenting. It’s like a tsunami of constant bombardment from all sides,” said Mr Murphy.

“The way hackers extract money out of people is unbelievable. I’ve seen everything from sextortion, where young people are trying to meet someone online with these dating websites and they end up being conned. We’ve seen people’s bank accounts getting cleaned out because they clicked on a link.”

His prediction of increased cybercrime in 2022 was echoed in a recent report by PWC, which showed that 62% of Irish businesses expected cybercrime to rise this year. This is largely due to the lack of understanding around its risk.

The survey of 3,600 business leaders globally, including Ireland, found that only 38% of Irish respondents had a “high” understanding of the risk of data breaches through third parties. A further 24% had little or no understanding at all of these risks.

Around 59% of Irish respondents to the PWC survey said that their organisations expected a rise in breaches via their software supply chain. However, only 32% had a high understanding of the cyberexposures arising from these third-party supply chains.

Similarly, 62% of Irish respondents expected a jump in attacks on their cloud services, but only 29% admitted to having an understanding of these cloud risks.

Mr Murphy believes the best thing that most organisations can do to avoid and combat cyberattacks is to go back to basics.

“I say this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek but, if you’re with someone and you’re getting chased by a bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear. You have to be faster than the other person,” he said.

Many companies in Ireland are so ill-prepared for cyberthreats that hackers don’t need to try very hard, according to Mr Murph

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