Cyber Security

Cyber Security

Full Transcript:
Dep. Ó Cathasaigh: For a long time, we have traded on the fact that we are physically very remote, and that insulates us from the kind of cross-border aggression we have seen in eastern Europe. However, cyberwarfare does not know boundaries in the same way. I would like to see that we are adequately supporting and resourcing the National Cyber Security Centre. I know it is difficult for the Taoiseach to elaborate on the work it does, and that is right and proper.

I would also like to mention the resourcing of the Data Protection Commissioner. I say this with a view to 2024 being a year of elections. We know that roughly half of the world’s population is going to the polls this year. I fully expect there to be an unprecedented level of interference in terms of misinformation and disinformation. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland has an outsized role because of the presence of so many social media companies in our jurisdiction.

Parts 4 and 5 of the Electoral Reform Act 2022, which deal with outside interference in our electoral process, have yet to be commenced. I know we have brought that to the European Commission for ultimate sign-off. Ahead of next month’s referendums, the local and European elections, and at some stage over the next 12 to 13 months a general election in this country, it is very important that we get this right and have ourselves protected from outside influence by malign actors.


Deputy Ó Cathasaigh asked about cyberthreats and cybersecurity. The NCSC is situated in the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. It leads a strategic national incident response process that involves co-ordinating across government and internationally. It works closely with An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, both through personnel secondments and continuous joint working and information sharing. It also maintains close contacts with a range of private sector enterprises in the State and third level institutions here. The Government is committed to delivering world-class connectivity and communications. This includes continuing to invest in cybersecurity. This commitment is reflected in the budget allocation of €10.7 million to the NCSC in 2024. Cyberthreats are a concern, both for Ireland and for international partners. Cyberattacks are now a constant and persistent feature of the security landscape. The NCSC works closely with An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces and across Departments to help to protect the security of Government networks and the State’s critical infrastructure.

I agree with Deputy Ó Cathasaigh on the risk of electoral interference. While we have no solid evidence of outside bodies engaging in electoral interference in Ireland, it has happened in other jurisdictions and it is something we are concerned about. It is not necessarily that malign actors would want to change the result of an election or affect the result of a vote, but from experience in other countries we believe that creating destruction in any democracy is to their advantage. We have to watch out for this. The Electoral Commission is being given the powers to deal with it to the extent that we can. We need to make sure it is properly resourced as well.