Australia Names Air Force Veteran as Cybersecurity Chief Amid Rise in Data Breaches

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SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) – Australia named a senior airforce commander as its first cyber boss on Friday to help lead the response of the government to major data breaches. The move will also boost the nation’s security capabilities in the wake of a recent spike network intrusions.

Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister, announced that Air Marshal Darren Goldie will be appointed as the National Cybersecurity Coordinator. Goldie is a 30-year-old veteran. He will have a national office in the Department of Home Affairs to support him. His term begins on July 3rd.

Albanese, during a briefing for the media, said: "We view this as an essential component of what a modern government must do to address our new and evolving challenges."

The government made the appointment in response to a hacking attack on Australian law firm HWL-Ebsworth. This company, which has clients including some of Australia's biggest banks and government departments, was the latest target.

HWL Ebsworth believes that the ransomware group BlackCat (also known as ALPHV) may have posted some stolen data to the dark web. The top four banks in the country said earlier this week that their systems had not been affected by the incident.

IDCare, a service provided by the Australian government to victims of identity fraud, noted that Australia ranked fifth in terms of data theft among countries in January 2023. This was despite its relatively small population and economy.

Since late last year there has been an increase in cyber attacks in Australia. This prompted the government to set up a new agency in February that would oversee government investments and coordinate responses to hackers.

Clare O'Neil, Minister of Home Affairs, said that the appointment of Goldie to lead this agency was "an important part of the puzzle" put in place by the government to stop hackers.

The health insurer Medibank Private, which is owned by Singapore Telecommunications, and the telco Optus have both reported major breaches.