AustCyber report on encryption bill

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James Riley

A “myth-busting” report on the economic impact on the local cyber security industry of controversial proposed encryption laws is set to be released in the next week as the government attempts to rush the legislation through parliament.

The cyber industry’s Growth Centre known as AustCyber has teamed up with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to conduct a survey on the impact of the legislation. The laws would give new powers to authorities to compel tech companies to provide access to encrypted data.

The federal government has since tried to fast-track the legislation, with the Prime Minister “insisting” it is passed before Parliament rises for the last time in 2018 at the end of next week.

The legislation is currently before a parliamentary joint committee, which government ministers are pressuring to hurry up and approve the new laws.

The survey would provide some evidence-based information on the real impact of the legislation on local businesses, AustCyber chief executive Michelle Price said.

“There’s a need for some myth-busting around this legislation. I believe there are probably some untruths circulating around the industry broadly, not for malicious reasons but simply because there is a vacuum on this side of the equation,” Ms Price told

“There’s no evidence-based information to provide to organisations about the economics side of the discussion. There’s a lot of information on national security but not the economic side. That’s what we’re seeking to fulfill with this piece of work.”

The survey would be completed in the coming days, and is expected to be released next week. But Ms Price said the fast-tracking of the actual legislation has nothing to do with this timeline.

“We will be releasing it as soon as we can. We want the industry to start preparing for what the situation is based on evidence,” she said.

“We’ve had a really solid response to the survey – there’s a pretty significant hunger from within the industry, particularly from SMEs, to have the opportunity to have a say and share their views.”

AustCyber has also just released a report revealing the economic impact of the cyber security skills gap and the long-term needs of the industry.

The 2018 iteration of the Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan takes a deep dive look at the sector’s skills gap, finding that a further 18,000 people are needed in the next decade to capitalise on the economic opportunities on offer.

The report also found that the current skills gap had cost the Australian economy and local industry more than $400 million in lost revenues and wages.

“What this report does for the first time ever in Australia is quantify that in economic terms as to what the size of the economic cost is of us doing nothing. If we were to keep things as they are the report identifies what the economic cost is to the economy,” Ms Price said.

“Our fears were confirmed, but it will be of surprise for others. In our role working across the economy we have a helicopter view of what the needs are for all employees, not just cyber security organisations.”

AustCyber procured AlphaBeta Advisors to conduct the research, auditing a number of available reports on the topic, accessing organisations’ surveys, looking at work done by consultancies and conducting its own surveys.

AustCyber has recommended that new TAFE cyber course that recently launched be further scaled out, to increase the number of teachers on offer and to work with the industry to upskill employees and bring them into cyber roles.

The report also found that Australia’s struggles in commercialisation and roadblocks to access global markets are also holding back the local cyber sector.

AustCyber has also released a roadmap for the sector in collaboration with CSIRO Futures, with an aim to unite the sector around a “common vision” for growth.

The roadmap recommended improving best-practice guidelines for new products, creating trusted digital networks for intelligence sharing, building community awareness and establishing demo projects in industries like medical technologies.

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