New plans to fight growing menace of cyber attacks
THE Government is to prioritise military spending on combating cyber warfare and introducing new multi-million euro equipment in a radical defence forces overhaul.
The aim is to prepare for modern security threats and to maximise military capability for the next decade.
The blueprint, outlined in a white paper being brought to the Cabinet tomorrow by Defence Minister Simon Coveney, aims to ring fence military spending after severe budgetary cuts of almost 24pc over the past seven years.
However, the blueprint also addresses fears that cyber attacks now represent the greatest single threat to Ireland, particularly in terms of economic fallout.
The cyber threat is compounded by the concern - echoed by both US and UK intelligence agencies - that social media and the 'dark web' is now the primary recruiting and organising ground for Islamic terrorists.
Mr Coveney has warned that Ireland and Europe must learn lessons from the damage caused to the Baltic States by concerted and organised cyber attacks.
The greatest fear in Ireland is that sensitive State information will be hacked and deliberately leaked, or that critical economic assets such as major US multinationals could also be targeted.
"The reality of the 21st century is that a laptop can prove every bit as dangerous as a rifle or a grenade," one defence forces source said.
The response to cyber threats will be co-ordinated by the Departments of Defence and Communication through the enhanced Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Military intelligence will also be enhanced to allow greater monitoring of social media and the 'dark web' for potential terrorist threats to Ireland, particularly the recruitment of 'lone wolf' terrorists.
The Government will commit to an overall strength of 9,500, a modern, eight ship Naval Service and updated equipment for the Air Corps and Army.