Moves afoot to set up IT emergency response team

8 Nov 2006

Early discussions are under way to establish a computer emergency response team (CERT) in Ireland, has learned.

This group would act as a central and co-ordinated independent trusted advisor on protecting networks within the country, as well as issuing alerts on new threats that may compromise systems such as a new vulnerability in software that you use. It would also warn of ongoing attacks being experienced by other companies and peer organisations and advise on how to protect against those attacks.

Brian Honan, an IT security specialist and head of BH consulting, has been canvassing opinion within the industry about the formation of a CERT. According to Honan, the group could act as a confidential source to report incidents so that organisations can get advice on what to do. In addition, its role would include providing metrics and statistics on cyber crime activity in Ireland.

Honan’s efforts have the backing of University College Dublin’s centre for cyber crime investigation, which offers courses on the subject to law enforcement officials. He confirmed that he had been working closely with officials at the Department of Communications on this project and they have provided a lot of guidance. “In my opinion, to maintain the integrity and independence of the CERT the Government needs to be involved in some format,” he said.

He has also held discussions with a range of stakeholders, from small and medium-sized enterprise, financial and public sector organiations as well as representative bodies such as IBEC, ISME, Chambers Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and ISPAI. An online survey was conducted and distributed to IT and business professionals to elicit their feedback. “The results of these talks and the survey will help us identify the most suitable services and how those services are delivered,” Honan told

Explaining the reasons why such a group would be needed, he said: “As a country that depends on technology so much to support its knowledge-based economy I believe that we are at risk of cyber crime undermining the ability of Irish companies to conduct business securely over the internet. The rise in criminal involvement in cyber crime makes this threat more real as the motive for hacking or virus writing is no longer fame but fortune.”

Honan said it was too early to tell how big the group would be as this would depend on the number and type of services required and the amount of work that would be generated. He added that he would see the CERT operating as a service to its clients on an ongoing basis, “similar to any other advisory service”.

Subject to funding being available, among other factors, Honan said he hoped the team could be up and running by early next year. The extent and source of the funding is still being established.

By Gordon Smith