A new report reveals that 41% of Irish firms experienced at least one cyber attack event in a six month period from September 2019 to February 2020. 

This is among the findings of a study of 5,569 companies across eight countries that was commissioned by insurer Hiscox, which includes Irish data for the first time. 

Today's report also shows that 6.5% of Irish firms paid a ransom following a ransomware attack. 

The Hiscox Insurance study group shows that the most heavily targeted sectors were financial services, manufacturing and technology, media and telecoms with 44% of firms in each sector reporting at least one incident or breach.

It also reveals that the total cost of cyber incidents and breaches among the 335 Irish companies in the study group was over €113m, the second lowest total of the eight countries surveyed. 

But despite this, of the 125 Irish companies that suffered a cyber breach, Ireland also had the highest median cost of €91,860. 

It noted that one Irish company suffered total cyber losses of €17.8m, with the largest single event costing about €4.5m.

The fourth Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report surveyed a representative sample of private and public sector organisations in Ireland, the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. Each firm was assessed on its cyber security strategy and execution. 

The report found that Irish companies are ahead for most cyber spending categories for 2020, and by some margin, in enhancing disaster recovery capabilities, improving the security of customer-facing services and apps, and enhancing top management engagement in cyber policies and procedures. 

Ireland also tops the table for the percentage of companies expressing confidence in their IT and security readiness (70% and 66% respectively). 

Irish firms are also most likely to have a standalone cyber insurance policy (38%).

Patrick Mettler, Head of Sales and Distribution for Hiscox Insurance Ireland, said it is shocking to see so many Irish companies suffering a cyber attack.

"Likewise the number of businesses that have paid a ransom following a malware infection is chilling," he added.

Mr Mettler said that there is one very positive message from this year's report.

"There is clear evidence of a step-change in cyber preparedness, with enhanced levels of activity and spending. Take-up of standalone cyber insurance remains patchy, but this report is a reminder that firms are many times more likely to have a cyber incident than either a fire or a theft  for which most automatically insure," he added.