“It is no secret that we suffer from a lack of skilled cybersecurity professionals in Australia, and ACS is keen to play a role in addressing this shortage”
Australia’s tech friendly Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced last week during his speech on April 21 that his government is laying out their new Cyber Security Strategy initiative to meet the challenges facing his country’s digital infrastructure.
“Today I am outlining my government’s cyber security strategy, a roadmap as to how we will keep Australia safe and competitive in an increasingly digital world,” he said in his speech to the public.
“Our Cyber Security Strategy answers the call for national leadership. And it understands that Australia’s economic security is always placed at risk without strong national security.”
Under Turnbull’s directive, the government will be sponsoring 33 new initiatives to help bolster their cyber capabilities, backed by $230 million in government funding under the Cyber Security Strategy program. The effort is expected to create 100 new jobs in government offices with the goal of protecting their networks as well as reaching out to strengthen the private sector.
This investment complements the $400 million over the next decade — and roughly 800 specialist jobs — the government has committed to improve Defence’s cyber and intelligence capabilities through the 2016 Defence White Paper.
Turnbull told the press that he views cyber security and the technology field as essential in developing Australia’s future economy. “Cyber security is already providing unique opportunities for innovation and the sector will allow many Australian businesses to grow and prosper,” he said.
“With the Innovation and Science Agenda and the Defence Industry Plan, this Strategy will help bring more Australian technologies to market, prepare our children for the jobs of the future by boosting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) participation and support and create innovative Australian companies.”
Better late than never
While generally known for their strong sciences and academics, Australia has lagged behind in tech and the general monetization of their R&D, due in large part to focus on other industries like mining and other resource based sectors.
As a result, they have a significant and immediate shortage of personnel that are capable of properly protecting the nation’s infrastructure, even under the new plan.
“It is no secret that we suffer from a lack of skilled cybersecurity professionals in Australia, and ACS is keen to play a role in addressing this shortage,” says Andrew Johnson, CEO of the ACS, the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector.
In his speech, the PM stated that the new resources will go to CERT Australia, and boosting personnel at the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, and the Australian Signals Directorate, which Turnbull cites as having an offensive posture along with its defensive capacities.
To help facilitate and oversee the government’s policy, Turnbull announced Alastair MacGibbon as the first Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security. He also created a second position called the Cyber Ambassador, who will report to the Foreign Minister and be charged with leading Australia’s “international engagement in advocating for an open, free, and secure Internet, based on our values of free speech, privacy and the rule of law.”
As Australia’s tech sector is shifting to become a priority for the country’s economic growth, the government recognizes that it comes with challenges that must be addressed if it will be a viable industry as a whole. The PM touched on this in his speech, saying that, “Cyber presents enormous strengths, but vulnerabilities [as well]. Nobody is immune.”
“The scale and rate of compromise is increasing and the methods used by malicious actors are rapidly evolving,” he said, noting that, “Some intrusions are the work of foreign adversaries. Others involve malicious software used by organized criminal syndicates.”
Australia has faced a number of targeted attacks in recent years against both the public and private sectors. Turnbull applauded KMART Australia for coming forward after they were hacked, and not keeping the damage and risk to their customers as an internal matter, saying that they showed leadership.
He also discussed intrusions into the government’s databases, confirming that the Bureau of Meteorology “suffered a significant cyber intrusion which was first discovered early last year. And the Department of Parliamentary Services suffered a similar intrusion in recent years.”
The tech community’s response
So far, the reaction from the tech community appears to be supportive of the government’s move to take the issue of cyber more seriously, potentially impacting the sector’s growth.
“Cyber security is perhaps the biggest threat to Australia fulling the opportunities of the digital age,” said Johnson. “We need the policies and infrastructure in place to engender confidence in online platforms. Without this confidence, we place economic growth and productivity at severe risk. Cyber security must be a top priority for all stakeholders in the digital sector – government, business, academia and professional bodies. Only a collaborative approach will deliver the solutions we need.”
Alex McCauley, CEO of StartupAUS told Geektime in an email that, ”We are pleased to see a mature, comprehensive approach to an area that has a huge impact on Australia’s digital future. It’s crucial we get cyber security right if we want to transition into a technologically sophisticated economy and position Australia as a trusted place to do business.”
As one of the hubs that are helping to grow Australia’s budding startup tech center, McCauley says that, “StartupAUS supports the collaboration between all the key stakeholders both public and private.”
Turnbull appeared to be conscious of concerns that could arise from the increased presence of government agents on the web, speaking to fears of overreach, recognizing that, “Ensuring that the architecture and administration of global cyberspace remains free of government domination or control is one of the key global strategic issues of our time.”
In the past year, the Turnbull government has made significant overtures to the startup community in the way of plans for tax incentives and encouraging changes in regulations to make a friendlier ecosystem where companies can grow. They are also opening up landing pads in Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley to help Aussie entrepreneurs gain footholds abroad for their businesses.
This initiative opens up a wide range of possibilities for local cyber security professionals to expand their services, as well as for outside companies to seek out new opportunities in coming to Australia to set up operations there.
Along with his announcements for the high level movements in security policies, the PM took the opportunity to remind the public of their personal responsibilities when it comes to their cyber safety with a couple of good basic tips.
“We all need to pay more attention to cyber safety – to cyber hygiene if you like – securing our devices and protecting them with appropriate credentials,” says Turnbull, “We should regularly update our passwords and guard them as though they were our banking pin, and we must pay special attention to unusual looking links in emails and other communications because, chances are, if something looks suspicious, it probably is.”
Well said Mr. Prime Minister. Well said.