In a surprise move the first chief of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC), Alastair MacGibbon has quit his post after 18 months and will trade in his federal agent’s badge to become the Australian director of trust and safety for multibillion dollar flea market, eBay.
MacGibbon will leave the centre on July 2, neatly coinciding with the first anniversary of the AHTCC's formation.
MacGibbon confirmed his resignation in an exclusive interview with Computerworld, candidly saying the move was triggered by a desire to restore a work-and-life balance after more than 15 years of postings between different cities and countries. A transcript of the interview will be posted shortly.
"It was a personal decision involving myself and my family. It seems an appropriate time to go, having established the AHTCC and put it on a pretty firm foundation, and it will be a healthy thing for the centre. The AFP has been my life and it won't be easy to go. But it's a rational decision and it's for family reasons."
Before heading up the AHTCC, MacGibbon was the Australian Federal Police's Washington DC point man in charge of liaison for transnational crime matters.
MacGibbon said his replacement, Kevin Zuccato, will also be drawn from the same Washington post, describing him as someone with "an extensive policing career, who is a well-established detective who understands transnational crime issues. He will take [the AHTCC] to the next level".
Zuccato's appointment has also scotched rumours the federal government would consider appointing a private sector security expert and shows the Federal Police intends to keep a firm grip on the way the e-policing agenda will be set in Australia.
During his tenure, MacGibbon earned the reputation of being a quiet, passionate and highly-effective operator internally, and notoriously media shy externally.
Most recently, MacGibbon has been widely credited with persuading a fiercely secretive and resistant Australian banking sector to second staff to the AHTCC at the banks' expense – a pragmatic move that afforded the banks a requisite degree of distance and the Police a single point of contact.
Typically, MacGibbon left it to the competing egos of two cabinet ministers to fall over themselves in a grab to claim credit for the exercise.
Australian managing director of eBay Simon Smith said MacGibbon's appointment underlined a commitment to ensure a safe trading environment for customers. However, Smith was at pains to emphasise MacGibbon's appointment was not indicative of any deterioration of customer security.
"It doesn't imply that our site has become more dangerous. It has become safer. Alastair is clearly a leader in his field and his skills will ensure we remain at the forefront of customer trust and safety. [We are] committed to employing experts of the very highest calibre from around the world," Smith said.
The litmus test of MacGibbon’s entry into the private sector will be whether eBay has the mettle to execute on his sometimes-robust counsel and the necessary changes it will bring. If the market does, customers and shareholders are likely to be the better off for it.