The Government should give careful consideration to the advice it has received from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to allow intelligence on threats to national security to be shared between State agencies and the private sector. ComReg says it is now a matter of “critical concern” that it is not possible to guarantee secure telecoms networks in the absence of access by private companies to intelligence on national security risks.
With the ongoing rollout of 5G technology, nation states or groups acting on their behalf pose the biggest threat to cybersecurity, according to the submission to the Government’s consultation process on the issue. Along with the Garda, Defence Forces and the National Cyber Security Centre, ComReg is responsible for guarding Ireland’s networks against cyber attack.
This lastest warning about the danger of cyber threats echoes those expressed in a defence policy review provided to Cabinet last month, which maintained that increased spying by foreign intelligence agencies poses a risk to national security and to foreign direct investment. Ireland is particularly vulnerable to attack due to the large number of data centres here.
As the ongoing controversy in the UK over Huawei has demonstrated, Western governments and intelligence agencies are particularly worried about the role of companies with close links to the Chinese government in manufacturing 5G technology which may be vulnerable to espionage. ComReg wants to see the establishment of a mechanism for sharing and accessing national security intelligence in a controlled way among State agencies but it also believes the government should grant access to public companies involved in communications networks.
Last December’s National Cyber Security Strategy document revealed that there have been a number of serious cybersecurity incidents in recent years. Given the importance of technology companies to the Irish economy it is vital that ComReg’s advice about information sharing is taken seriously.