Commbank CIO slams ‘idiotic’ regulations

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO Michael Harte is sick of spending more money protecting assets from trusted staff than hackers.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO, Michael Harte

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO, Michael Harte

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO Michael Harte is sick of spending more money protecting assets from trusted staff than hackers.

While hackers and the banking trojans they employ become increasingly sophisticated, according to Harte, funds that might go towards defending against these threats are tied up in "clumsy" regulatory compliance monitoring systems.

"We are told by the regulators that we have got to know every single person that has access and we need to make sure that every day we monitor who's in and what they're looking at, and we need to make sure we have got a large group in our protection layer," said Harte, blowing off steam to the security industry at the Australian Information Security Association's national conference Wednesday.

Some of these systems would be required under Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism measures which deposit taking institutions must implement.

"We've ended up with a situation where we spend more money protecting our internal assets from people that we've trusted with an employment contract and we spend more money protecting assets from our staff than we do from protecting our assets from Russians, Brazilians and other people that want to come and steal our money," he said.

"It actually, it's almost idiotic that we have to these highly mechanistic, clumsy rules and tools within the organisation to protect ourselves from ourselves."

Hackers however were only one part of a broader spectrum of threats to the bank. The biggest, as several Australian banking chiefs have noted, was Google, Apple, Amazon, eBay and PayPal.

These "large global constellations" that can compute at a tenth of the cost that banks currently can threaten to step in between the bank and its previously unique intimacy with customers.

"They are in fact acting as financial services corporations," said Harte. "They may not be putting your money at risk, but they know more about you know than your doctor, than your financial planner, than your tax attorney because of all of the information they have got from you.

"We want to be the ones that compute at such a large scale at a fraction of current costs."

The bank has spent $5 billion over five years trying to achieve this, but one of the main obstacles to reaching the stars is security, or fears about security, that keeps its capital locked up in physical assets, said Harte.

"Every time that HP and IBM and the big equipment makers don't want to do something, they claim it can't be done because they don't have sufficient security," he said.

"As an industry, I believe that one of the greatest values that you can offer is to get us out of the bind that we're in by putting much of our IT and operational capital into equipment and buildings that we have to own because of the fear of security or some outdated regulation."

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