The Government has joined the Microsoft Government Security Programme (GSP), which it said will assist in the defence of critical national infrastructure against cyberattacks.

Ireland's participation in the programme will enable controlled access to source code, exchange of threat and early warning vulnerability information, and the ability to engage on confidential technical content about Microsoft’s products and services.

"Microsoft products are widely used by both public and private bodies. This new partnership between Microsoft and Ireland will be a key enabler in protecting the State’s digital infrastructure from cyber threats," said Minister of State with responsibility for Communications, eGovernment and Circular Economy Ossian Smyth.

Countries and state agencies can join the Microsoft GSP at no charge once they meet a list of criteria which includes the ability to adequately protect intellectual property and confidential information.

Ireland is joining over 45 other countries and international organisations represented by more than 90 agencies.

Director of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Dr Richard Browne recently visited Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

"Microsoft and the NCSC have worked closely together on a number of cyber-security issues over the past several years. Today’s announcement formalises that cooperation," Dr Browne said.

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"Participation in Microsoft's Government Security Programme provides another important resource which the NCSC can use in defending the Government and critical infrastructure from the persistent threat of cyberattacks," he added.

In May last year, the Health Service Executive was the victim of a major cyberattack which caused months of disruption and could end up costing €100m.

An independent review of the attack carried out by PwC found that the HSE was operating on a frail IT system and did not have proper cyber expertise or resources.

The HSE recently said it was finding it "especially difficult" to recruit cyber security staff because of the competition for talent.