Cyberattacks on Irish firms on the rise

Bank of Ireland head of Tech, Media and Telecoms Sector Paul Swift urges firms to be vigilant against threat of cyberattacks.

Some of our customers operating in the cybersecurity space are reporting a significant increase in potential threats in recent weeks.

It is thought that various threat actors (those that either create or take part in malicious attacks targeting an organisations IT security/network/business) are using the crisis in Ukraine as an opportunity to perpetrate attacks.

“Businesses need to always ensure their security protocols, such as vulnerability scanning and patching are up to date and ensure there is heightened awareness across their organisation as to the potential risks”

Similarly, it is also expected that given the public response in making charitable financial donations, this could provide the impetus for fraudsters to set up fake websites in an attempt to capture those donations.

The advice to customers is where financial donations are being made, best to make them directly through the official websites of the various relevant charities.

Likewise, businesses need to always ensure their security protocols, such as vulnerability scanning and (software) patching are up to date and ensure there is heightened awareness across their organisation as to the potential risks.

Ireland’s household broadband penetration rate in 2021 at 93%

ComReg have recently released its Quarterly Key Data Report on the Electronic Communications market Q4, 2021.

According to Eurostat, Ireland’s household broadband penetration rate of 93% is higher than the EU average of 90%. Fixed broadband subscriptions increased to 1.58 million, an increase of 0.7% for Q4 and an overall increase of 4.0% compared to Q4 2020.

It is particularly noteworthy that Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) grew by 50% on the same period in 2020. This perhaps is a further indication of the demands of working from home and the needs of employees to have high speed, reliable connectivity. The report also shows the growth in the market for 5G connectivity with 5G mobile subscriptions increasing 32% on the same period in 2020, with 5G traffic also increasing by 143% between Q4 2020 and Q4 2021.

President Biden signs executive order to look at ramifications of creating a US digital currency

President Biden has signed the executive order to create a whole-of-government approach to assessing the risks while potentially harnessing the potential benefits of digital assets and their underlying technology.

The executive order sets out a policy to assess digital assets under the following key priorities; consumer and investor protection; financial stability; illicit finance; U.S. leadership in the global financial system and economic competitiveness; financial inclusion; and responsible innovation.

The order has a 180-day deadline for a delivery of a series of reports on “the future of money” and the role that cryptocurrencies will play in the evolving landscape. It is estimated that 16% of adult Americans (approximately 40 million people), have invested in, traded, or used cryptocurrencies. It is timely that President Biden has signed this order when there is heightened concern about the potential use of cryptocurrencies by some Russians to circumvent sanctions and moves by other economies to create their own cryptocurrencies.

This order follows on from a study launched by the European Central Bank in the second half of 2021 to assess the key issues regarding the design and distribution of a digital euro. The aim of a digital euro would be to help prevent illicit activities and avoid any negative impact on ECB financial stability and monetary policy. It will be interesting to see how both studies could ultimately hone policy that could impact regulation around cryptocurrency. Time will tell.

AgTech has strongest year yet for venture capital funding and exit value

According to Pitchbook, VCs invested $10.5bn across 751 deals in AgTech start-ups in 2021, representing a deal value increase of more than 58% year on year.

This investment focused on Agri-Biotech (plant data and analysis, animal biotech and plant biotech), Precision Agriculture (farm management software, robotics & smart field equipment, field IoT and drones &imagery analytics) and Agri-finance and e-commerce (agribusiness marketplaces and finance and insurance).

Many of these start-ups are providing innovative solutions that potentially promise financial, but also social and environmental returns.

Sector Developments & Insights March 2022
Paul Swift
Paul Swift is head of Technology, Media and Telecoms sector at Bank of Ireland.