Could agency heads be the next Target?

By Andrew Gill and John McPherson

Last week saw the removal of US retail giant Target’s chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) as the fall-out continued from last year’s hack of 40 million customer payment card records and 70 million other records. This in turn has triggered a wave of litigation in the US from customers, banks and others against Target and its security providers. It has also seen Target’s chief information officer (who has since also departed the company) hauled before congressional committee hearings.

While Australian companies and government have not been immune from attacks by hackers, it raises some important questions: could one of our big agencies, such as the Australian Taxation Office or the Department of Social Services, be liable for security breaches? And how can organisations reduce this risk?

The frontline of combating cyber-security threats will always be held by IT professionals who create and man the cyber defences and respond to attacks as they occur. However, the strategic questions such as threat levels, risk assessments and resources to devote to cyber security involve more than just IT professionals — and the former CEO of Target is proof of that…

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