herald

Thursday 27 July 2017

€4.3m stolen in cyber attack on Meath council returned in full

Councillor Gerry O’Connor
Councillor Gerry O’Connor

Meath County Council yesterday had €4.3m returned in full to its bank account, after it was the subject of an attempted cyber attack over last year's October bank holiday weekend.

The council had taken legal action in Hong Kong to have the monies transferred back into its name.

The council's chairman, Gerry O'Connor, said its systems had worked last October when the alarm was raised and this allowed the council "to get Interpol and the gardai to have the funds frozen".

The attack happened on the Friday of the bank holiday weekend and the funds had reached Hong Kong by the time the council was aware of it.

The council went to court there to get the monies returned.

"It is laborious dealing with inter-bank transfers and inter-country transfers and the money hit our account [yesterday]. It is a good news story," said Mr O'Connor.

The council has since upgraded its cyber-security system to make it more difficult for it to be targeted in the future.

"We were not the only ones targeted, there seems to be cyber criminals targeting State institutions and local government," said Mr O'Connor.

Security

"We have had an internal audit done and several [new] layers of security so this cannot happen again."

The council has also engaged IT consultants "so our systems are as robust as they can be".

He said cyber criminals operate in a changing world and "as soon as one threat is eliminated, another one is there".

The council confirmed that it incurred costs of €120,964 - of which €77,000 was legal costs, €23,000 VAT and €20,000 withholding tax - in its actions.

The council's budget this year is €104m "so if €4.3m had been lost, it would have affected services," Mr O'Connor added.

The council confirmed the cyber incident in a statement last December, when it said it was "the target of a serious, attempted cyber-enabled offence involving identity theft".

"The sophisticated attempt to steal €4.309m was detected before the transaction was completed," it added.

"The council's bank was alerted and the matter was reported to gardai, who provided assistance through the Financial Intelligence Unit in the National Economic Crime Bureau, and through Interpol."

Yesterday the council thanked the police and court authorities in Hong Kong, as well as gardai.

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