The federal government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre has quietly shuttered the 2019 iteration of its annual conference leaving the security sector scrambling.
The ACSC conference held annually in March/April in Canberra is the highest profile and most important cyber event on the industry calendar. The event sold out in 2017 and 2018, in terms of delegates and industry exhibitors.
The ACSC conference has been a key point of information exchange between the various cyber stakeholders across the economy, from government to corporate to law enforcement.
The strength of the conference drew on the ACSC linkages into power centres of the Defence and intelligence establishment, largely through the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), both also in its direct relationships to the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
It is understood that ACSC chief and Australian Signals Directorate deputy director-general Alastair MacGibbon has put a line through the event, declaring that government should not be in the business of running conferences.
The ACSC was contacted in late 2018 and again this week, but has declined comment.
It is understood the ACSC has entered a partnership arrangement with the Australian Information Security Association (AISA) – a cyber security professionals association – to collaborate on its Australian Cyber Conference 2019 in October in Melbourne.
The CyberCon 2019 event web page is co-branded with the ACSC and the government supported not-for-profit AusCERT. CyberCon has issued a call for papers, and is actively recruiting corporate sponsors and exhibitors.
The cancellation of the ACSC conference has left cyber security vendors scrambling to realign outreach budgets around the changes, but without a formal announcement from the ACSC have been left in limbo.
The combination of the policy and intelligence muscle of the ACSC and its affiliates and the corporate smarts of the AISA membership base should produce a national event of weight and focus for the cyber sector.
The ACSC conference in 2018 featured a plenary session that included presentations from former Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, shadow assistant minister for cyber security and defence Gai Brodtmann, ASD director-general Mike Burgess and National Security adviser (and ACSC chief) Alastair MacGibbon, as well as senior US Department of Homeland Security cyber security executive Richard Diggers.
It included speakers from cyber ecosystem organisations as disparate as the FBI, Australia Post, Commonwealth Bank, Microsoft, the Defence Science and Technology Group, Telstra, Cisco and TransGrid.
The ACSC exiting the conference side of the content business is in stark contrast to its substantial investment in its in-house news generation capability, having recruited its own newsroom of journalists in the past year.