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Major investment and increase in staff at National Cyber Security Centre

An increase in the NCSC will see it rise by €2.5m for 2022.

Image: Shutterstock/Backcountry Media

THE AGENCY IN charge of Ireland’s cyber security is to get an increased budget and a major staff increase, the Government announced today.

There will be 20 new jobs that will increase the staffing at the National Cyber Security Centre from its current staffing level of 25 people.

The Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Ossian Smyth also announced that the staffing level will further increase over the next five years to 70 people.

One key area, that attracted much criticism during the recent HSE cyber attack was the absence of a director of the NCSC.

Criticisms were levelled that the wage for the senior manager post could not compete with private sector roles so that will now be re-advertised and the salary set at €184,000.

The budgetary increase for the NCSC for 2022 is estimated at €2.5m.

The Government also said that there would be a “significant package of other measures to further strengthen the capacity of the NCSC”.

There will be the development of legislation to establish the NCSC on a statutory basis with a set of formal powers and a legal mandate. 

There had been concerns that the NCSC did not have a dedicated base within the Department’s new Headquarters (HQ) in Beggars Bush.

Ryan said that the investment marks a “step change” in the evolution of the NCSC and its place in the security matrix. 

“The expansion we are announcing today will enable the organisation further develop its competence and capacity to help defend and protect IT systems and our key services into the future.

“As Ireland is a leading digital economy, protecting the cyber security of Government IT and critical national infrastructure is vital.

“The NCSC has an important role in gathering intelligence on cyber threats and in sharing that information and providing expert guidance. The Government is committed to ensuring that the NCSC has the appropriate level of resourcing to enable it deliver on its important mandate,” he said. 

Smyth said the decision was being taken at a time when cyber attacks were increasing across the globe. 

“Today’s positive action by Government is being taken against the backdrop of a steady increase in the number of significant cyber incidents in the past number of years, including the recent incidents affecting the HSE and other healthcare providers internationally, as well as Colonial Pipeline in the US, and more recently, Kaseya.

This trend is reflected across the globe, with many Governments and supranational organisations, such as the EU and UN, recognising that the threat of malicious cyber incidents can have potentially devastating security, economic, social, and humanitarian consequences.

“While individual organisations and citizens need to take appropriate steps to protect themselves in an online world, today’s decision will ensure that NCSC has the appropriate mandate and resources to continue to support them,” he said. 

In a statement the Department said that the Government decision today follows recommendations made by Minister Ryan on receipt of a Capacity Review of the NCSC by an independent third party, which was already underway before the recent HSE cyberattack.

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The capacity review was one of the measures in the National Cyber Security Strategy published in late 2019 which set out a broad range of measures to be taken to improve the security of public and private IT systems in the State.

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has welcomed the Government’s announcement.

Head of Ibec Digital Economy Policy, Erik O’Donovan said that the NCSC should be a priority for the State.

“The nature of our economy and services have become more innovation driven. We estimate that in 2019, there were over 248,000 employed in ‘digitally intensive’ sectors in Ireland.

Recent Ibec research also indicates a business move towards more permanently digitalised way of conducting business into the future.

 We must safeguard our people, services, and businesses online by ensuring our national cyber security capabilities are adequately resourced, and that Ireland plays a strong role internationally in understanding and managing evolving cyber risks.

“Government should also intensify ongoing efforts to engage, co-ordinate and strengthen our cyber security ecosystem. By encouraging a pipeline of the relevant knowledge, skills, and talent in the State, we can enhance national cyber security and resilience and support the positioning of Ireland as a lead player in the cyber security industry.”

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