With rise of ransomware, report says cybercrime cost Ireland €9.6bn in 2020

23 Nov 2021

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A Grant Thornton report suggests cybercriminals are exploiting weaknesses from remote working, with phishing scams and ransomware being major threats to Irish businesses.

Cybercrime is on the rise and cost the Irish economy €9.6bn last year, according to a new analysis by professional services company Grant Thornton Ireland.

The report claimed that ransomware has become one of the biggest threats to organisations and employees in Ireland, with the cost of ransomware attacks accounting for €2bn of the total figure. The impact of computer viruses was estimated to cost €1.3bn and phishing stood at €1bn.

Future Human

A similar report conducted in 2014 by Grant Thornton estimated that cybercrime cost Ireland €614m, which shows a significant increase in the last seven years.

‘The ability of businesses to detect and react to an attack will be the key factor in limiting the impact.’
– MIKE HARRIS

Head of cybersecurity for Grant Thornton Ireland, Mike Harris, said those involved in cybercrime do not distinguish between their targets and simply look for opportunities to exploit so they can steal funds and information.

The report cited Garda figures that said incidents of online fraud in Ireland increased by 55pc last year and phishing complaints were up by 45pc.

“It is not a question of if an Irish business will be the victim of a cyberattack, but a question of when,” Harris added.

A PwC report released last year said cybercrime in Ireland was double the global average and three times as disruptive, with 51pc of more than 70 organisations surveyed saying they had experienced fraud in the previous two years.

Risks from remote working

With the mass shift to remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Grant Thornton report indicated that Irish businesses may not have done enough to prevent new security risks that arise from having a remote or hybrid workforce – risks that are likely to continue.

“Attracted by the vulnerability related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit, cybercriminals are highly likely to build up their activities and develop increasingly advanced and sophisticated ways of operating. They are likely to continue proliferating Covid-19-themed online scams and phishing campaigns,” Harris noted.

“Business email compromise schemes will also likely surge due to the economic downturn and shift in the business landscape, generating new opportunities for criminal activity.”

A study by Microsoft cited in the Grant Thornton report found that 43pc of employees face no restrictions when accessing work-related documents remotely.

In the survey of 500 employees, 33pc said they use the same password to log into work and personal devices, while 30pc use personal emails to share confidential work materials. While 20pc of employees said they had experienced a cyberattack, one in five also said they had received no training or guidance on how to protect themselves from a cyberattack.

Grant Thornton suggested that businesses prioritise cybersecurity and recognise the growing risks associated with remote working.

“The ability of businesses to detect and react to an attack will be the key factor in limiting the impact,” Harris said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com