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US High-Tech Crime Wave Spreads To Ireland

by Jason Gorringe,, London

15 November 2002

Ireland seems to be following the US in high-technology development from both positive and negative perspectives. It's well-known that Ireland is leading the European pack in terms of high-technology investment and jobs, but not so welcome is a rise in high-tech crime which is mirroring a similar wave in the US.

In the US, a Computer Security Institute survey in association with the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that 90% of respondents, mostly IT administrators from large corporations, detected computer security breaches in 2001, and a high proportion of them acknowledged financial losses.

At a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, a number of IT security experts from Ernst & Young and from the Garda Siochana said that a matching rise in IT fraud is taking place in Ireland. Dan Quealy, director of Ernst & Young's security and technology solutions practice in Ireland, said that he had investigated 20 such incidents over the past year.

"As people begin to use technology more and more in Ireland, it stands to reason that computer crimes would be on the rise," added Detective Sergeant John Finan of the Gardai's Computer Crime Unit. "I think the trend is clear."

"We don't know exactly why it is this way [in Ireland]," Quealy said, "but we think that it might have a lot to do with the success of the software industry here. It doesn't take much to learn how to do this stuff," he added, pointing to a range of sites which give default passwords to supposedly secure hardware. "All of the tools you need are out there already and some of them are pretty powerful."

Quealy said that one of the most popular types of fraud attacks in Ireland is a PBX attack. PBXs are often connected to unsecured modems for maintenance purposes, allowing attackers to tap into them and essentially make calls for free. After St. Patrick's weekend 2002, Ernst & Young e-security experts were alerted to 10 such attacks, one of which resulted in EUR80,000 worth of fraudulent phone calls.

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