Navy commander put in charge of Australia’s most sensitive systems

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Navy commander put in charge of Australia’s most sensitive systems
Narelle Devine (Source: Linkedin)

DHS picks new cyber security chief.

Navy commander Narelle Devine has been formally named the Department of Human Services’ new cyber security chief, charged with protecting some of the most financially and personally sensitive IT infrastructure in the country.

The DHS opened applications for the job back in May, after former CISO Mitch Levy was transferred to another role in the agency.

The appointment puts Devine, a commander in the Royal Australian Navy for some 20 years, in charge of defending critical IT like the Centrelink welfare payments system that calculates and delivers $500 million worth of social security payments every day.

DHS CTO Charles McHardie warned last month that if something was to happen to the Centrelink engine, $1 billion could disappear from the Australian economy within just 48 hours.

In 2014, CIO Gary Sterrenberg decribed the scale of application patching required to keep the whole DHS up to date as unlike anything he has ever seen before.

He told a senate committee his team patched 2.5 million devices in a year, at a rate that was easily double what was required 10 years ago.

Devine now assumes the title of national manager, cyber security in the DHS’s CIO group, where she has been filling in for some months in Levy’s absence.

She joins the self-proclaimed largest IT shop in the southern hemisphere, with 3000 staff and an annual budget in the vicinity of $1 billion.

An APS gazettal of her appointment shows that the formerly temporary job will become permanent from January next year.

In keeping with the elevated-profile of the cyber security function, Devine’s role has a “higher duties” status, which means she will answer directly to Sterrenberg, bypassing SES ranks above her SES 1 position.

According to the May job ad, Devine will take full accountability for “the current and future strategic plan and strategy for cyber and information security in a fast paced, dynamic environment", leading what the DHS calls a "new era in technology and service delivery".

Devine holds Masters degrees in systems engineering and computer science from the University of NSW, according to her Linkedin profile.

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