By Lila Bais

Over 171,000 Irish businesses could be vulnerable to crippling ransomware attacks, according to the latest report based on a nationwide survey on cybersecurity.

The survey shows that 48% of all businesses in Ireland have no cybersecurity policy in place and only 13% of businesses questioned are confident their data is secure.

The Magnet Networks Survey was carried out among 205 companies across all sectors and regions.

Cybersecurity expert James Canty says “The results are alarming.”

He also added that “Particularly smaller businesses have very limited cybersecurity controls in place and very limited cybersecurity policies in place. The consequences for this is that they are extremely vulnerable, they’re computer systems and networks are extremely vulnerable, but also any particular customer data that they may be holding is likely to be quite vulnerable.”

Last week, Irish operations of three global companies were hit by virus linked to ‘Petya’ and ‘GoldenEye’ code.

How It Happens

In one particular case, the virus crippled computers running Microsoft Corp’s Windows by encrypting hard drives and overwriting files, then demanded $300 (€265) in bitcoin payments to restore access. More than 30 victims paid into the bitcoin account associated with the attack, according to a public ledger of transactions listed on

Microsoft said the virus could spread through a flaw that was patched in a security update in March.

“We are continuing to investigate and will take appropriate action to protect customers,” a spokesman for the company said, adding that Microsoft antivirus software detects and removes it.