Ganley: Major global cyber attack within our lifetime likely

Irish tech entrepeneur Declan Ganley has hit out at Ireland’s “vulnerable” cybersecurity infrastructure, and dubbed the recent HSE ransomware attack an act of terrorism.

Ganley, who is a CEO of communication giant Rivada Networks, spoke frankly during an exclusive interview with Gript.

“It’s been widely reported just how under-resourced the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) has been,” he said.

“This is a really key element of national security. If we take our national security seriously, we have to take cyber security seriously.

“Cyber has now been proven to be a core vulnerability of the integrity of this State and its institutions. Its ability to deliver services has been attacked, in what I consider to be an act of war by a non-State or State actor. We’re still not quite clear which it is.”

Ganley emphasised the need to prioritise cyber security as an area of national defence.

“The perpetrators of that act of war and that act of terrorism against our country need to be brought to justice, they need to be made pay and made an example of. That’s something that has to be done. And we need to put cyber security into a much higher area of prioritisation.

“In the Curragh Military School we have a school of infantry, we have a school of artillery, we have a school of cavalry. And they’re very, very good at what they do. What we need is a school of cyber warfare.

“We need to develop core expertise here, and we need to put together the resources so that we can pay to retain the best talent in this field and keep it guarding our gate.

“Our economy is now and will increasingly be dependent on our ability to develop and build upon technology and IP. And if we can’t guard the gates from malign actors, we will not be able to keep building upon this economy. It’s a very serious threat – even an existential threat – to this State.”

Gript interviewer Ben Scallan asked Ganley if he believed more devastating cyber attacks were on the way.

“We’ve seen other similar ransomware attacks globally in recent ones, such as the attack on the Colonial Pipeline in the US,” said Scallan.

“And many people, including Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, have said that a major global cyber attack could be so damaging to society that it would make Covid-19 seem “like a small disturbance” by comparison. Do you think that something like that is possible or likely to happen in our lifetime?”

“Yes, I do,” said Ganley.

“I think that the next Pearl Harbour will commence in the cyber domain. Because through the cyber domain you can have a kinetic effect. You can actually make things crash into each other, you can blow things up, you can crash power grids, take down whole institutions. Even physically harm them.

“Now, there’s some complexity to that, but as the Internet Of Things grows, as we have evermore connected devices, so many things – from your air conditioning, to your fuel supply, to driverless vehicles, to drones, aircraft, fuel supply pipelines – everything that we touch. All of those things are manipulable through the Internet of Things, or will be very soon.

“And so the most effective way to do a hit and run attack and start a major conflict will be in the cyber domain. I think that is, at the moment, the most likely vector that it will come through. And that’s why we need to get serious about this.”

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