Hackers of State sites earlier this year yet to be identified

Gardaí, along with Europol and the FBI, have yet to discover who was behind the cyber attack on a number of Government websites earlier this year.

The head of the Garda Cybercrime Unit, detective superintendent Michael Gubbins, said that Irish authorities had worked with other agencies to solve the attack but they had not found the culprit.

“At the start of the year, our own Government was hit by a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. [It was] a group online and we haven’t been able to track them, we worked with our colleagues in Europol, the secret service and the FBI trying to put some investigation into this.

“We’ve also been working with CSIRT (Computer Security Incident Response Team) in the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the Department of Communications,” said Det Supt Gubbins.

He was speaking at Cybercrime Awareness Day 2016, which was Ireland’s only event for European Cybersecurity Month.

A DDoS attack is a common way of downing a website without hacking into it.

It happens when more traffic than a website can handle is deliberately sent to that website. It results in the public not being able to access that site.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO.ie), the Courts Service (courts.ie) and the Department of Justice (justice.ie) were all affected in this way last January.

The detective superintendent explained why it has been difficult to catch the group behind the attack.

“In relation to the Distributed Denial of Service attacks on the Government networks in January of this year, the difficulty in investigating those matters is that those attacks all originate with compromised computers.

“So by the time you get to them and you get the IP (internet protocol) address, get your mutual assistance requests in order, the data might be gone to allow you to get to the next hop on it,” he said.

“Also, those computers are already compromised and the owners of them aren’t even aware possibly that they themselves have been compromised and have been used as part of a greater attack,” he added.

Yesterday’s event, which was hosted by Irish telecoms and cyber security firm Magnet, was the only one in Ireland for the European-wide initiative.

There are almost 500 related events taking place across Europe.

Detective superintendent Gubbins said that there are a number of things that the general public can do to keep their information safe.

“We need to encrypt our data, we need to encrypt our communications.

“People have to be aware and alert to the likes of the phishing emails, the scams that are out there, not to give away their information, not to put up too much online and to be cautious of how they work and where they put their stuff on the internet,” he said.

“The important part is, the internet is there, it’s good for everybody, it’s good for communications, to do business and personal lives, so we’re not to be afraid to use it, just to exercise caution,” added the detective superintendent.


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