James Riley
March 7, 2019

Encryption troubles will ‘normalise’

Growth Centres

Encryption troubles will ‘normalise’

Michelle Price: The cyber ecosystem in Australia is as strong as it has ever been

It is a challenging time right now to be an Australian cyber security company following the passage of the controversial encryption legislation last year. The irony, according to AustCyber chief executive Michelle Price is that the health of cyber ecosystem has never been stronger.

And while the encryption legislation has raised eyebrows among cyber peers across the world, the number of Australian cyber companies has boomed, and the uplift in capability across the rest of the economy is strong.

Speaking on the sidelines of the giant RSA cybersecurity conference being held in San Francisco this week, Ms Price conceded that the encryption legislation was definitely a challenge for Australian companies and had led to some tough conversations with potential international investors and buyers.

But AustCyber expects the pain to be short-term. The the conditions that the legislation imposes on Australian cyber companies will ultimately become ‘normalised’ as other countries move to build similar frameworks.

“There’s no two ways about it. It is tough. But I strongly believe there is going to be a leveling out in the next 12 to 18 months,” Ms Price said. “But of course it means in the next 12 or 18 months there are going to be some very tricky conversations for some of the companies.”

“But it will level out. There are a whole series of other countries that are going to be going down this path as well. So while that it works as a potential and a perceived disadvantage to Australia [right now], it will become normalised.”

While the GDPR-style legislation in relation to privacy was the last wave of legislation and regulation to address cyber technologies, encryption was the next.

Ms Price said the next challenge was in the development of the industry guidelines and how those industry guidelines get used to implement the legislation.

AustCyber was “broadly supportive” of the campaign among industry groups for amendments to the legislation.

“The number one thing that I want to see is in terms of that legislation is transparency,” she said, and that the legislation should reflect the culture of business transparency and government transparency.

Meanwhile, Ms Price said the first graduates had started coming out of AustCyber’s TAFE cyber initiative and that the quality of the graduates had quietened any scepticism some employers might have had when the program was launched.

“It’s really just the start. The pipeline from that program is just going to continue to grow. We’ve got some TAFE’s with waiting lists of up to 600 people waiting to access those courses, so now we are working with the TAFEs to make sure they’ve got the teachers and the industry mentors and to make sure the curriculum keeps pace with change.”

AustCyber recently partnered with the Australian Computing Academy to launch a set of materials for high schools nationally, “where teachers can go into a curriculum portal and directly access – for the first time ever – cybersecurity content for year 7 through to year 12.”

In the past year, AustCyber has opened a series of “network nodes” across the country where the growth centre has driven meetup activities, pitching programs and provided direct Growth Strategy Advice to local cyber companies on a one-on-one bases.

“That growth strategy work that we’ve been doing with companies that have a real growth opportunity internationally, that’s been a big feature of our program,” Ms Price said.

“We are also working really effectively with the other growth centres to make sure they are cyber resilient. I have some emails waiting for me now from METS Ignited and NERA on a partnership, and also we’re doing some work directly in Industry 4.0 in partnership with AMGC.

“The investments that the taxpayer is making into our growth centre is having a multiplier effect into the other growth centres as well. There has been a huge amount of capability uplift.”

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