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Major bank weighs in on cyber security, cloud computing


As professionals and consumers continue their reliance on cloud computing, the chief executive of Westpac warns that he sees cyber security as the "single biggest risk" facing financial services in Australia.

By Charbel Kadib and Katarina Taurian 9 minute read

Following his trip to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum, the CEO of Westpac, Brian Hartzer, noted that the “consistent view” of his global banking counterparts was that cyber risks were the greatest threats to security in the industry.

“The biggest single risk is cyber risk, and actually, that’s the thing we need to focus on,” Mr Hartzer said.

“We do a lot within our own companies to protect ourselves against cyber risks. At Westpac, we’re spending tens of millions of dollars every year; we’re constantly testing and improving our defence and ability to recover if something happens.”

Mr Hartzer added that Westpac will look to co-operate with “peer banks, the financial services industry and governments” to tackle what he believes is a global threat.

“[The] nature of cyber is we’re a connected world and what happens in one place can affect others,” the CEO said. “And the insight was that businesses and government need to work together to anticipate how an issue in one part of the network can affect other parts of the network and its ability to recover.”

Cyber security has been of increasing importance to the banking sector as the industry increasingly relies on cloud computing and online banking, and has been shaken by attacks such as that experienced by US-based company Equifax Inc, which announced last year that it had been subject to a cyber security incident that could have impacted up to 143 million consumers.

Accountants are reminded that mandatory data breach reporting laws come into effect from 22 February this year. This means where there’s unauthorised access to a client’s information that may cause harm, the breach must be reported to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the individual affected. You can learn more about what this means for your firm here. 

There are substantial penalties for breaches, including up to $360,000 for individuals and $1.8 million for organisations. 

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