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Minister Alex White T.D. at Cyber Network Exploitation and Defence Conference

​Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to thank the NEDForum for inviting me to make this opening address to the Cyber Network Exploitation and Defence Conference. It’s an important and timely event, which I’m sure will contribute much to the ongoing debate on cyber-security and related challenges.

These are issues of intensifying importance – and broadening interest – as internet services develop at ever-increasing speeds.

Cyber security is becoming increasingly important to all our citizens, as we use the internet more frequently, and to do more things. Internet activity – on everything from buying and banking on-line, to social interaction, education, citizen engagement, travel, accessing public services, and recreation – gives us all a stake in internet security.

In Europe and here in Ireland, we are working to increase connectivity, provide better systems to interact across borders, and encourage the take-up of digital services by citizens and business. Our National Broadband Plan is a key priority for Government and my Department. It is focused on delivering the infrastructure to ensure that every home and business has access to high-speed, high-quality and future-proofed broadband regardless of where they are located. We are also stimulating demand through the National Digital Strategy, which is helping small and medium enterprises develop a commercial online presence.

One of the central challenges, as we work to enhance, and derive benefit from this digitally-connected society, is to ensure that everyone can have confidence in the resilience and security of the Internet. Confidence that their personal, financial and business information – including intellectual property – is safely stored. And confidence that infrastructure supported by digital services is not vulnerable to attack.

Ireland’s economy and employment depends increasingly on effective and secure digital infrastructure. Digital contributes approx. 5% of national GDP, and the digital element of our economy is growing at 16% a year.

Nine of the top 10 global software companies, 10 of the top 10 global ICT companies, and the top 10 “born on the internet companies” have significant operations in Ireland. Our computer services exports now account for over 40% of all exports from the service sector, amounting to over 35 billion Euro a year. Protecting and sustaining this investment, which directly provides employment for over 95,000 people is a vital priority for us. Here in Cork alone, we have some notable global ICT and pharmaceutical industry players, one of whom [Trendmicro] will be speaking here later today.

Our geographical position on the North Atlantic trans-continental corridor – connecting Europe and North America – also gives us a high degree of interconnectivity, with the ability to host domestic and international data and call centres, and attract top international digital service and ICT companies.

These companies and services require resilient and secure infrastructure, as do the thousands of indigenous companies, of all sizes, that use the internet. Cyber security is critically important to underpin growth, prosperity and general economic development. And, as digital becomes an ever more central feature of lives, information security is itself becoming a growth opportunity for Ireland.

While the increasing interconnectedness of the Internet opens up new opportunities for social, industrial, scientific and economic progress, it also brings new risks. And the evolution and application of new digital technologies is taking place so rapidly, that it is constantly changing the threat landscape.
An open and stable global cyber-space – where things work as intended in a resilient, safe and secure manner – is critically important if we are to maintain the momentum of growth in digital services. We won’t reap the full benefits of a digitally engaged society unless citizens and businesses have confidence in the security of information systems. Personal and corporate information needs to be securely managed, and the underlying network and computer system infrastructure needs to become more resilient and robust to withstand cyber-attacks.

Cyber protection is a local, national and global concern that requires all State and private actors to work together to protect our critical infrastructures. Infrastructure operators, online business and vendors need to make appropriate and ongoing investments in people and systems. Information systems need to be up-to-date, addressing security weaknesses and vulnerabilities in a timely manner. Operators and on-line businesses need to be aware of the potential risks and threats, and be sufficiently resilient to mitigate the impacts from cyber incidents.

End users need to be aware of the potential risks, and they need to interact responsibly online. We need to raise awareness among all internet users, including the new generation of ‘digital natives’, to prepare them for the risks, and enable them to adopt appropriate safeguards.
While the cyber security challenge needs to be addressed at national, business and end-user levels, Governments also need to put appropriate governance arrangements in place, including robust emergency response procedures.

My Department, in conjunction with critical infrastructure partners and international peers, is currently developing a cyber-security capability. This encompasses the National Cyber Security Centre, which includes a computer emergency response team. And it involves building partnerships with industry, and the delivery of public awareness activities.

As an EU Member State, we are engaged with the European Commission and the Council on cyber issues, including the current proposals for a Directive on Network and Information Security. We also have appropriate engagement with the European Network and Information Security Agency.

Ireland has also organised, and participated in, national and international structured exercises in cyber security. This has included Cyber Europe 2014, at technical and operational levels. These exercises usefully bring key stakeholders together to address common problems and challenges. Together with conferences like today’s, they provide essential networking opportunities, and help build a community of allies to call on when a cyber-incident occurs.

In tandem with this initiative, the “Make-It-Secure” campaign, which was supported by my Department and by industry, aims to inform small and medium sized businesses and citizens on steps they can take to improve their own cyber security. The various Government departments and agencies are working closely together to develop robust responses to cyber-crime, data protection challenges, and the protection of Government networks. Government will continue to play a key role in establishing an appropriate environment that facilitates an open, safe and resilient cyber space.

Keeping pace with the ever increasing sophistication of cyber-incidents is a challenge for us all, and I am pleased therefore that the NEDForum has chosen Ireland to host this important conference, with its high-calibre speakers addressing various aspects of the topic. I hope that this conference will help to guide us on the steps we will be taking to improve security, recognising that each of us is ultimately responsible for our own online security.

I expect the debate will be interesting and informative, and that you will explore many new ideas for tackling common challenges. I thank you again for the opportunity to make this short contribution and I look forward to hearing the outputs of your deliberations. Thank you.

Speech Documents