Northern Ireland’s largest law firm, Carson McDowell, has backed cyber security to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the local economy in the next decade, as it announced a new strategic partnership with the Northern Ireland Cyber Security Cluster.

Known as NI Cyber, the cluster consists of more than 35 companies who are developing world-leading cyber security technology solutions across a diverse range of industries, including finance, banking, insurance, legal, telecoms, defence, security and healthcare. The cluster includes both indigenous and international companies.

The partnership was announced with less than a week to go before the 16th Annual International Conference on Privacy, Security & Trust, hosted by Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) in Titanic Belfast on August 28-30.

Neasa Quigley from Carson McDowell said: “Our partnership with NI Cyber underlines the firm’s commitment to an industry in which Northern Ireland already has a world class reputation. Through the companies affiliated with NI Cyber and CSIT, the region has a cluster with unrivalled potential and we believe specialist legal advice will have an important role to play in its future evolution.

“There are growing tensions between the way that innovative companies want to use our personal data to improve their services and the rules that govern privacy, security and trust. A number of high profile scandals have undermined trust in how data is handled and highlighted that there is still work to be done around the ethics of data security.”

Neasa also noted that companies in Northern Ireland have not been immune to the rise in sophisticated cyber-attacks and will have to adapt to the new risks that advancements in technology inevitably bring.

“In the past year we have assisted a number of clients in many sectors - agriculture, professional services, manufacturing - seeking advice on their rights and the possibility for recovery after falling victim to breaches in which significant amounts of money were intercepted during transactions through no fault of their own,” she said.

“We anticipate an increased demand for our specialist legal advice as new technologies like artificial intelligence become more commonplace. For example, AI’s use in connected and autonomous vehicles pose far reaching questions about who is responsible when things go wrong – is it the vehicle maker, the dealership, the software developer?”

Judith Millar from the NI Cyber cluster, said: “We are delighted that Carson McDowell is partnering with us, championing NI Cyber and sharing its expertise in the legal questions facing the cyber security sector.  Privacy and trust, the ethics of data use and the unknown liabilities around the roll out of technologies such as AI are huge questions for the companies in NI’s cyber security cluster and we look forward to working with Carson McDowell as we tackle those issues.”