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New Aussie cyber czar to spearhead pursuit of network hackers


A new national cyber security co-ordinator will be appointed in a bid by the government to prevent large-scale data breaches of people’s personal details.

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The Federal Government says the co-ordinator would oversee work being done to prevent online attacks, as well as help manage date breaches when they take place.

The announcement coincides with a cyber security roundtable being held in Sydney on Monday, hosted by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with business and government leaders, which would look at ways to combat cyber attacks.

A discussion paper has also been released, outlining a seven-year strategy that would aim to be in place on cyber security from next year.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said having a cyber security co-ordinator in place earlier would have made a significant difference during last year’s data breaches of Optus and Medibank customer data.

“What we will have now is an individual in the public service who is going to co-ordinate the response across government and make sure that not only are we deterring and preventing cyber attacks … that Australians can get back up off the mat quickly,” she told ABC Radio on Monday.

“(One part of) this person’s job will be to help manage cyber incidents in a proper, seamless strategic way across the Australian government.”

The co-ordinator will be part of a new national office for cyber security within the Home Affairs department.

Advertising for the role will take place within coming months.

O’Neil said the discussion paper would help to make Australia more cyber secure by the end of the decade.

She said current laws on cyber security were not up to scratch, as demonstrated by the Optus and Medibank breaches.

Changes being proposed at the roundtable would include an update to the definition of what is a critical asset, along with steps business could take to prevent breaches.

Former Telstra chief executive Andy Penn, who chairs a Home Affairs advisory panel on cyber security, said there was a lot more Australia could do to combat online threats.

“Since Covid, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the rate of digital adoption, and unfortunately, we’ve also seen a dramatic increase in the rate of cyber crime,” he told ABC Radio.

“It’s not a case … of necessarily being behind anybody else. It’s just we’ve got to keep up with this growing phenomenon and dirge of malicious activity we’re seeing.”

Penn said law reform was drastically needed in the sector in order to ensure systems were updated to meet the growing number of attacks.

He indicated larger penalties for businesses that don’t meet cyber security obligations was an option being considered.

“You could argue that things like the corporations law and consumer law and privacy law already implicitly covers cybersecurity incidents. But we need to do more to make that more explicit,” he said.

“More does need to be done in a legislative sense on lifting our level of resilience.”


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