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Banks look for shared effort in escalating cyber war

Global news Tyisha Fetzer todayApril 6, 2021

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“We recognise we need to be able to respond to sophisticated cyber threats from nation states and increasingly sophisticated criminal activity … Strategies such as upgrading technology infrastructure, patching for critical vulnerabilities and moving capability to cloud environments with better security controls is a key way to improve security while reducing costs.”

Prior to joining ANZ, Ms Connick was the first assistant secretary for information sharing and intelligence in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was responsible for delivering a previous National Cyber Security Strategy in 2016.

The federal government’s plan to assist businesses with both preventing and reacting to cyber attacks is largely co-ordinated by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) within the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD.)

Ms Connick said ACSC’s new Joint Cyber Security Centres in each state were helping extend the reach of the ACSC and encourage broader collaboration across companies, but greater efforts were needed to present a stronger united front against cyber assaults.

“There is more to be done to build on this capability and we are talking about how we improve sharing of threat information in real time, jointly exercise our response to major cross organisation or sector attacks and use our joint capacity to increase understanding of cyber security across the community,” she said.

Keith Howard, Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s group chief information security officer, meanwhile, said it was important for organisations to treat cyber security as a people and culture issue, rather than something that should be handled solely by the tech experts.

He described cyber strategy as a team sport and that security needed to be top of mind for all employees.

“Technology is the playing field, but ultimately the players – whether attackers of defenders – are human beings,” Mr Howard said.

“We need to demystify cyber. There are a number of simple steps everyone can take to protect themselves. Ensure your password is suitably long and complex, utilise multifactor authentication, keep a data backup off your network and be very wary of social media interactions and emails that you are not expecting or are trying to provoke an urgent response.”

Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s group chief information security officer Keith Howard meanwhile said it was important for organisations to treat their cyber security as a people and culture issue. 

Proposed amendments to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 will focus on cyber security obligations, and will target key companies, including major banks, in a number of sectors deemed critical to the nation.

The new laws would give authorities the power to intervene in the tech operations of institutions, including installing government software. It would also give them the power to allow government agencies to take over the core technology systems of banks if they come under attack. Separate changes are also likely to see company board members given greater personal accountability for the level of cyber resilience.

Ms Connick said the banking sector would not be fazed by increased scrutiny as it already operates under strong regulatory standards for information security including APRA’s CPS234.

“We welcome the government’s proposals to extend protection across the critical infrastructure more broadly. Our executive and board are very focused on cyber security,” she said.

Mr Howard said his advice about how to keep accounts and systems safe was not something he only spoke about with Commonwealth Bank staff and customers, but was also a topic of conversation with business clients.

Other companies that organisations deal with, such as clients, partners and suppliers often have links into important systems, and supply chain security is a major focus for all large organisations.

Ms Connick agreed, saying it was important that smaller organisations with less resources dedicated to cyber, were assisted to be robust.

“If I could solve one issue over the next year it would be to help smaller organisations improve their cyber security through improved awareness and simple standards that everyone can adopt,” she said.

“We are all interconnected and raising the level of security across the community is key to reducing the impact of attacks. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has great, simple guidelines everyone can implement.”

Ms Connick said ANZ uses a mnemonic “PACT” to reinforce best cyber practices. This stands for Pause before sharing sensitive information; Activate multifactor authentication; Call out anything suspicious and Turn on automatic updates.

Written by: Tyisha Fetzer

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