Police in Ireland have launched a probe after a hacker attempted to break into its computer network, forcing officials to temporarily shut down several of their systems to ensure the security of data held on staff and the public. The police force, An Garda Síochána, has not yet uncovered the culprit but maintains its website and 'Pulse' police database were not affected.
Computer experts with the Garda have claimed the attack was carried out by a "new strain" of malware previously unseen by its technical experts.
In a statement provided to IBTimes UK, a spokesperson said: "On Thursday 4 August, An Garda Siochana identified a zero day malware threat on one of our systems.
"Heightened security procedures were implemented and standard protocols were enforced across all Garda IT environments to limit any effect on our systems. Working with security experts the threat was identified and an appropriate solution was implemented across all Garda Siochana IT systems."
The spokesperson added: "An Garda Siochana are continuing our investigation into the incident. The Computer Crime Unit at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are investigating the source of this malware."
When asked to elaborate more on the specific strain of malware and provide further details about the suspected "zero-day" - vulnerability caused by a hole in software that is unknown to the vendor but is expolited by the attacker - the press officer said: "We have nothing to add to our statement."
In a recently-related five-year plan, the Garda announced it was being forced to restructure its cybercrime divisions to help deal with a "backlog of cases".
As previously reported, the document, titled Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016 – 2021, described how cyberattacks can have a "devastating impact" on governments, state bodies and critical national infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in March last year, high-level Garda officials warned about a spike of cyberattacks in the region. As reported by The Irish Times, assistant Garda commissioner Derek Byrne said: "[Cybercrime] is a very fast-growing phenomenon. It reinvents itself every so often, as we're closing in there's people all the time inventing new methods and processes to infect."
He added: "Sometimes people are not aware that they're working on open networks, and that the criminal networks are out there seeking to infect and take control of their computers."