SYDNEY, June 23 (Reuters) – Australia on Friday named a senior air force commander as its first cybersecurity boss to help lead the government’s response to major data breaches and boost the nation’s security capabilities amid a recent spike in network intrusions.
Air Marshal Darren Goldie, a 30-year veteran, will become the national cybersecurity coordinator, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said. He will be supported by a national office within the department of home affairs and begin his term on July 3.
“We see this as a vital component of what modern government needs to do to respond to what our new and emerging challenges which are there,” Albanese said during a media briefing.
The appointment comes as the government responds to an infiltration at Australian law firm HWL Ebsworth, the latest company targeted by hackers, and whose clients include the country’s largest banks and some government departments.
HWL Ebsworth has flagged ransomware group BlackCat, also known as ALPHV, may have published some stolen data on the dark web. The country’s top four banks earlier this week said their systems were not impacted by the incident.
IDCare, an Australian government-backed service for victims of identity theft, has noted that Australia was the fifth-most targeted country by data thieves in January 2023, far worse than other nations relative to its economy and population.
Australia has seen a rise in cyber intrusions since late last year, prompting the government in February to reform security rules and set up an agency to oversee government investment and help coordinate responses to hacker attacks.
The appointment of Goldie as the head of this agency is an “important part of the jigsaw puzzle” being put in place to thwart hackers, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said.
Major breaches were reported by health insurer Medibank Private (MPL.AX) and telco Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications (STEL.SI).
Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed
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