OPINION: Defeating the Pandemic and Securing Cyberspace: Two Battles We Cannot Afford to Lose

By Dinos Kerigan-Kyrou

Cyber security, online fraud, and the protection of our critical infrastructure: not issues which appear particularly relevant at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in serious illness and loss of life across Ireland and the rest of the world.

But far from being irrelevant, these matters are crucial if we are to minimise economic harm, sustain a recovery, and establish safe and effective medical infrastructure for the long-term. Sadly, the time of such a pandemic is a period when those who want to cause harm online – and there are many of them – can take advantage and are at their most prolific. 

Cybersecurity is the security of cyberspace – the online environment in which everyone now lives and works. Cybersecurity includes the protection of our personal and business information, protecting against unauthorised access to our microphones, cameras, images, our Research and Development, and our Intellectual Property.

Unfortunately this IP, according to the UK National Cyber Security Centre, is being stolen “on an industrial scale.”

Cybersecurity includes protecting against online fraud – for example, false invoices or criminals impersonating the emails, messages and phone calls of company directors, or impersonating banks requesting fund transfers. The results of this fraud are catastrophic for large, medium and small businesses, as well as individuals, across the State.

“This security of cyberspace directly affects the economic, and physical health and well-being of every single person in Ireland.

And now at the time of this dreadful crisis, cybersecurity very much includes the security of medical information including patient records and the security of nearly every type of medical device which is increasingly connected online. The ‘Internet of Things’ will be one of the biggest developments in Ireland in everything we use including our home appliances, cars, offices, and our vital critical infrastructure including our factories, transport, finance, energy and especially in medical care. Our medical infrastructure and medical devices within our GP surgeries, emergency medical services, and our hospitals across the State will all be increasingly interconnected.

This security of cyberspace directly affects the economic, and physical health and well-being of every single person in Ireland. But when our guard is down, and we are understandably focusing on other hugely important concerns, is when those that wish to cause harm have an unprecedented opportunity to do so.

Our cybersecurity can only be protected by every single person within our companies and organisations being empowered to identify security challenges. It’s only by working together across departments, outside our normal structures and hierarchies, that we can secure cyberspace during – and in the years that follow – the tragedy of COVID-19.

Dinos Kerigan-Kyrou is an instructor on the NATO DEEP (Defence Education Enhancement Programme), based at the NATO military education facility the Partnership for Peace Consortium, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. He is responsible for cyber security training and coordination on the Defence Forces Joint Command & Staff Course. Dinos is a voluntary Advisory Board Member of CSARN UK / Australia, the not-for-profit organisation that brings together police, government, public sector, and business to address security challenges.

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