AustCyber has launched a big push to bring more people into the Australian cyber security industry to combat the sector’s dire talent shortage and take advantage of the wealth of government procurement opportunities on offer.
Federal defence industry minister Christopher Pyne and AustCyber (formerly the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network) chief executive Craig Davies unveiled the first national cyber challenge this week with an aim to increase interest in defence industry careers for hackers and fill the talent gaps in Australia.
The challenge is the first of a planned series of cyber challenges across the country run by AustCyber as part of the government’s $230 million Cyber Security Challenge.
Mr Davies said Australia is facing a “critical” shortage of cyber security workers, with an estimated 11,000 qualified professionals needed to meet today’s challenges.
The competitions are meant to be a fun way to bring new people into the industry that may not have previously considered it, he said.
“In cyber security across Australia there’s a massive shortage of people. While we need to continue in the traditional STEM area, there are other opportunities related to people with skills coming out of business, human sciences and data analytics that have a general ability to see and solve problems,” Mr Davies told InnovationAus.com.
“The more we take the mystery out of what it’s like to work in cyber security, the more we will attract a diverse people to work in it and that will only be good for solving the problems we’ve got across the globe,” he said.
“We want to help people see what they could do rather than being scared of it and continuing to see it as a super technical realm.”
The first AustCyber challenge is split into two fictional scenarios, with the first requiring competitors to conduct an investigation into a data leak, and the other based on a capture the flag style game.
The challenges aren’t meant to only be for skilled hackers, Mr Davies said.
“They’re built in a way so that you don’t need to be technically strong. We really just want to get people to at least try and measure their skills.
“We’ve tried to create a series of challenges that appeal to people and encourage them to get involved in the industry,” he said.
Prizes for the challenges include workshops, internships and conference tickets.
AustCyber was launched at the start of this year with $31.9 million of federal funding across four years. It aims to act as a “cheerleader” for the local sector, and attract more people to get involved.
It’s an important time for cyber security in Australia, Mr Davies said, and if the industry can bring more people in and fill the talent gaps, there’s numerous opportunities on offer.
“We sense a big shift happening federally and at a state level. They’re already starting to see that talking to an Australian firm is worth their time. In Australia we’ve managed to move the conversation so now we’re focused on executing,” he said.
AustCyber has recently been working to get local cyber firms a foot in the government’s door. The organisations ran a GovPitch event last week which saw seven cyber security firms pitch their solutions to government, and Mr Davies said he’s hopefully that some contracts will emerge from that.
Last week’s big announced by digital transformation minister Angus Taylor, which will see government cap the size of its IT procurements at $100 million, will also provide huge opportunities for local cyber security firms, he said.
“That was a fantastic announcement from Minister Taylor. We’ve been working with the DTA and its digital marketplace to set up Australian cyber security firms on that platform, and they’re ready to go,” Mr Davies said.
“That’s outstanding and in line with the work that’s being going on since we started,” Mr Davies said.
“We’re focused on helping Australian businesses get visibility and get in the room so they can present their capabilities.”