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Australia’s cybersecurity chief Alastair MacGibbon resigns

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Alastair MacGibbon, the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), has tendered his resignation and will return to the private sector.

MacGibbon led the ACSC since January 2018, when it first became part of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

He also held the title of National Cyber Security Adviser at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), where he was charged with the implementation of government’s Cyber Security Strategy.

ASD director-general Mike Burgess said in a statement on Saturday that he regretted the announcement of MacGibbon’s resignation, saying that MacGibbon “leaves a considerable legacy”.

“Alastair has been a fierce advocate for the importance of cyber security for the community, businesses and governments. He is indeed the face of cyber security in Australia and, through his leadership, helped raise the nation’s cyber security standards,” Burgess said.

During his time at the ACSC, MacGibbon oversaw the transition of other parts of government into the newly-independent ASD as it became a statutory authority.

He also oversaw the completion of the network of Joint Cyber Security Centres (JCSC) for coordination with the private sector, a reshaping of the government’s Information Security Manual (ISM), and a tightening of access controls for government systems as part of a new Essential Eight Maturity Model.

Prior to his ACSC role, MacGibbon was then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Special Adviser on Cyber Security, during which he led an investigation into the debacle that was the the 2016 Census.

And prior to that, from April 2015, MacGibbon was Australia’s first eSafety Commission. In that role, his office achieved a remarkable amount of work in its first 12 months.

The perfect time to leave

“Alastair believes the end of the electoral cycle is an appropriate time for renewal,” Burgess said of MacGibbon’s departure from the ACSC.

The timing makes sense, and not just because MacGibbon’s work at the agency had reached a natural inflection point.

It’s also just days until Australia’s federal election on May 18, an election that the Labor opposition is widely expected to win. At least at this stage.

For at least a year now, the consensus of the Canberra rumour mill has been that a Labor government would dismantle DHA. Word is that some public servants who were transferred into the new mega-department hadn’t bothered printing new business cards because they expected their previous places in the bureaucracy would soon return.

The expectation is not unreasonable. The creation of DHA was as much a political act as it was organisational development.

It was driven in part by power struggles within the Coalition government — particularly the need for then-Prime Minister Turnbull to slap down Australia’s then-favourite attorney-general, Senator George Brandis QC, in order to placate then-Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton.

Your writer also understands that DHA isn’t a happy ship at the moment.

There’s dissatisfaction with the apparent lack of efficiency in certain areas, including the cybers. MacGibbon’s twin hat roles, reporting to both DHA for policy matters and ASD for operational concerns, could not have been easy.

MacGibbon has spent the past 17 months getting that curious structure to work. I can’t imagine he would have been thrilled about the prospect of having to take it apart again.

He was also a Coalition choice, having originally been chosen for the special adviser role personally by Turnbull. That presumably put some noses out of joint at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), where some senior staff might have been eyeing the job for themselves.

The partisan politicisation of the public service is a disappointing reality. Axing the department or axing the person might well appeal to a new government wanting to make its mark.

Should the Coalition manage to win the election and remain in power, however, it’s likely there would be a new minister for Home Affairs. Peter Dutton holds his seat by a narrow margin, and is likely to exit Parliament even if his side wins.

Ministerial attention to cybersecurity has already gone missing under Prime Minister Scott Morrison. What would the future hold?

All this is speculation, however.

MacGibbon’s final day with ASD will be May 28. Until the role is permanently filled, the ACSC will be led by Lieutenant General John Frewen, the ASD’s Principal Deputy Director-General.

Alastair MacGibbon has been contacted for comment.

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Work from Home Security

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Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.

Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.

This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.

Key Findings:

  • Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
  • Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
  • Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
  • Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
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Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management

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Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.

A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.

Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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