SYDNEY, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The Australian government on Monday said it planned to overhaul its cyber security rules and set up an agency to oversee government investment in the field and help coordinate responses to hacker attacks.
The move follows a rise in cyber attacks since late last year with breaches reported by at least eight companies, including health insurer Medibank Private Ltd (MPL.AX) and telco Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (STEL.SI).
Current cyber security rules, government policies and regulations "are simply not at the level that we need them to be," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during a meeting with industry leaders and experts.
"This is really fast moving. It's a rapidly evolving threat, and for too many years Australia has been off the pace," Albanese said.
The government will set up a coordinator for cyber security, supported by a national office within the department of home affairs, tasked with ensuring government agencies work together during cyber incidents.
The coordinator will also oversee the government's investment strategies on cyber security and help lead the response when hackers attack.
The government has published a discussion paper on a new cyber security strategy, which it aims to implement next year, and is seeking feedback on how businesses can improve their cyber security in partnership with the government.
Though the government and the private sector are undertaking critical security measures, the current rules do not ensure smooth coordination during cyber incidents, Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O'Neil said, blaming the previous government for implementing them.
"That law was bloody useless, like not worth being printed on the paper when it came to actually using it in a cyber incident," O'Neil told ABC Radio in an interview. "They're not fit for purpose at the moment, and I do think they need reform."