Rachel Noble to become director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate

Fills the gap left by Mike Burgess when the former Telstra CISO headed to ASIO as its director-general of Security in September.

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Screenshot: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

Rachel Noble has been announced as the new director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

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"Ms Noble's deep experience in intelligence strongly positions her to lead ASD in executing its important national security mission," a statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"She has vital technical expertise having previously worked in ASD and has a strong understanding of the role the organisation plays in the National Intelligence Community."

Noble is the first woman to be appointed to lead ASD and is also the first woman to head a major intelligence agency in Australia.

Morrison said her appointment is a significant step forward for women in the national security sector.

Noble will replace Mike Burgess, who in September headed to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) as its new director-general of Security.

Burgess took helm of the ASD in December 2017.  

In taking on her new post, Noble leaves her role as the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), which she has only been in since June when she replaced Alastair MacGibbon, who resigned from the post shortly before the federal election in May his year.

As the ACSC boss, Noble was responsible for leading the Australian government's cyber security capabilities, responding to cybersecurity threats and incidents, and collaborating with government, industry, and the community on cybersecurity matters, Morrison explained.

During Senate Estimates in October, Noble fessed up to the worst kept secret in Australian cybersecurity circles, that it was indeed the ACSC that had two speakers dumped from CyberCon earlier that month.

Noble confirmed it was her that made the decision to dump the controversial speakers, saying the decision was made based on the speakers' reputations of being "known public advocates for unauthorised disclosure or the leaking of classified information outside of legitimate whistleblowing or lawful whistleblowing schemes".

She said the talks they were slated to give were not "consistent with the objectives of the conference which was actually about cybersecurity and helping Australians raise their awareness and technical knowledge about cybersecurity issues", and could have expressed views that were not in line with Australian law, processes, and values.

Prior to her stint at the ACSC, Noble served as deputy secretary of the Executive Group in the Department of Home Affairs. The group is responsible for enterprise strategy, risk, assurance, security and ministerial, media, and intelligence services.

Noble also previously held a series of leadership positions in Home Affairs; Defence, including two previous roles at ASD; and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

As PM&C's National Security chief information officer and cyber policy coordinator, Noble coordinated whole-of-government policy on cyber issues and improved information sharing among the national security community. She received a Public Service Medal for this work.

Her previous roles also include national director of Intelligence and chief information officer at the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service; assistant secretary of Governance, responsible for the overall governance and assurance framework for Defence; and deputy chief of Facility at the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, the joint satellite surveillance facility with the US near Alice Springs.

Noble holds a masters of business administration in technology management and a bachelor of science with honours.

Noble will begin her new role in February 2020, when lieutenant-general John Frewen, who was acting in the role as director-general of the ASD, will return to his role of principal deputy-director-general.

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