Thursday 20 June 2019

New Central Bank boss 'was told leak wasn't a hack'

Gabriel Makhlouf, formerly New Zealand’s treasury secretary. Photo: Vivek Prakash
Gabriel Makhlouf, formerly New Zealand’s treasury secretary. Photo: Vivek Prakash
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The controversy surrounding incoming Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf has deepened as reports suggested he was informed by a top spy agency that New Zealand's budget had not been hacked, before issuing a statement to the contrary.

The New Zealand government has launched an investigation into Mr Makhlouf's handling of an alleged budget leak last week, including into whether he misled ministers about a claimed cyber hacking.

He is currently the top civil servant in the country's Treasury, or department of finance, and is due to take up a post as Central Bank governor here in September.

The growing controversy about Mr Makhlouf's role in the handling of the alleged leak a week ago comes just weeks after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe named him as the surprise choice to take over as Central Bank governor from Philip Lane.

Labour's Joan Burton has insisted the appointment should be suspended pending the results of the inquiry in New Zealand.

Mr Makhlouf was told by the top spy agency in New Zealand that the country's budget had not been hacked before he issued a statement stating that it had been, according to the latest reports.

The 'New Zealand Herald' has reported that its Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) - a spy agency - told Mr Makhlouf his department had not been hacked before he issued a statement saying that it had.

The Treasury had sought advice from the GCSB about its computer system after parts of the annual budget had leaked.

But the spy agency said that it was not a matter for its cybersecurity unit because it did not think there had been a hack.

Police

Mr Makhlouf referred the matter to police to investigate, met with New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson and then issued a statement, in which Mr Makhlouf said the Treasury had been "systematically hacked".

It later emerged that the leaked budget documents had been accessible on the Treasury's own website.

The government did not correct or clarify the description that the Treasury's computer system had been "hacked" for an entire day, according to the 'New Zealand Herald'.

That is despite being told by its cybersecurity experts that no hacking had taken place.

Mr Robertson said yesterday that the Government was being tight-lipped because the Treasury had called in the police.

Mr Robertson said that he was not told about the GCSB's concerns until after the release of statements from Mr Makhlouf and himself.

Both of these statements referenced hacking.

"I certainly did not know anything other than what the Treasury had advised me when I put the statement out," he said.

Irish Independent

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