MACQUARIE Telecom Group (ASX: MAQ) has appointed former head of the Australian Defence Force’s cyber warfare sector, Marcus Thompson, as senior advisor within the company’s newly established Federal Government advisory board.
Major General (rtd) Thompson, AM PhD, has joined Macquarie following a 34-year career in the Australian Defence Force, during which he was Defence’s inaugural head of the Information Warfare Division (IWD), which coincided with Defence recognising cyber as a battlefield domain for the first time.
Under Dr Thompson’s leadership the IWD defended Australia’s military assets and information from foreign cyber attacks, and Defence’s cyber capabilities developed into a world class counter offensive cyber force.
Speaking on his appointment, Dr Thompson said the decision to join Macquarie was fuelled by a desire to champion three causes close to his heart: prioritising Australia’s national cyber security defence; moving Australia’s digital supply chain onshore to protect our sovereign information; and building our sovereign cyber capability to better support our cyber defences, stimulating national economic growth in the process.
“Macquarie shares my view that cyber security needs to transform from a fleeting thought in the national psyche to an issue that is front and centre with the private sector, government and the population at large,” Mr Thompson said. “In my previous role I’ve seen firsthand just how important cyber security is to every aspect of our society.
“The government’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020 was a step in the right direction. It has put greater maturity into conversations about cyber security.
“Australia needs board members and executive teams to develop their expertise in cyber security further, and to cement cyber as a central business operational risk – one that’s mission critical to corporate planning.”
The appointment of Dr Thompson comes just weeks after then Home Affairs Minister and newly appointed Defence Minister Peter Dutton highlighted how cyber attacks against Australian businesses were on the rise.
In March the Australian Federal Police also labelled 2021 the year of the cyber-criminal, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) shared its prediction that espionage by nation-state hackers would surpass terrorism as the biggest threat to Australian security by 2025.
Evidence of regional tensions seeping into the online world has formed the basis of Dr Thompson’s rallying cry, that all levels of our digital supply chain can and should be resident in Australia.
“The fact remains that most of the time we don’t know where our data is stored or who can access it. Much less the laws to which the companies storing and accessing it are subject,” he said.
“The risk this poses to our cybersecurity and data protection are very real. It necessitates the use of digital supply chain providers that are majority Australian owned and operated and subject to sovereign controls.”
Beyond the threat posed by nation-state hackers, Dr Thompson said Australia should prioritise local technology, cloud and cybersecurity providers to cultivate local industry, create jobs and capability that will drive economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, uplifting our national cyber security posture in the process.
“The government is doing this with Defence industry through major procurement of land and naval platforms. It should do the same in cyber where we are already served by local industry capability that is world-class,” Dr Thompson said.
Macquarie Telecom Group CEO David Tudehope welcomed the appointment.
“Marcus embodies what we value most – maximising Australia’s sovereign skills and capabilities, and keeping Australian data stored and protected onshore,” Mr Tudehope said.
“Collectively, we need to amplify the voices of experts like Marcus who have dedicated their careers to protecting Australia’s people and our way of life.”
Dr Thompson’s appointment follows the launch of Macquarie Telecom Group’s IC5 government-certified data centre in Canberra, which supported more than 400 jobs in the ACT throughout 2020.