Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s government said on Monday it plans to overhaul its cybersecurity rules and create an agency to oversee government investment in the field and help coordinate responses to hacking attacks.

The move follows a surge in cyberattacks since late last year, reported by at least eight companies, including insurer Medibank Private Ltd and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd-owned telco Optus.

Current cybersecurity rules, government policies and regulations are “simply not at the level we need,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during a meeting with industry leaders and experts.

“It moves very quickly. It’s a rapidly evolving threat, and for too many years Australia has fought off that pace,” Albanese said.

The government will create a cyber security coordinator, supported by a national office within the home department, tasked with ensuring that government agencies work together during cyber incidents.

The coordinator will also oversee the government’s cybersecurity investment strategies and help manage the response to hacker attacks.

The government has published a discussion paper on a new cyber security strategy it plans to implement next year, and is seeking feedback on how companies can improve their cyber security in partnership with the government.

While the government and private sector are taking important security measures, current rules do not ensure seamless coordination during cyber incidents, Home Secretary Claire O’Neill said, blaming the previous government for failing to enforce them.

“This law was pretty damn useless, like it wasn’t worth putting on paper when it came to actually being used in a cyber incident,” O’Neill told ABC Radio. “At the moment they are not fit for purpose and I think they need reform.”

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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