Feds’ cyber review looms large

Stuart Kennedy

Australia’s prospects for building serious cyber security businesses muscle are possibly stronger than many realise, but the local digital security sector still waits for the fire to be lit by two key government initiatives.

The first is the Federal Government’s long awaited cyber security review which harks back to a November 2014 Abbott Government initiative, while the second is a new Cyber Security Growth Centre with $30 million in funding through to 2020, which insiders believe will be headquartered in Victoria when it is unveiled.

The growth centre is part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda and is aimed at linking business and government in a national cyber security innovation network.

The cyber security review, which is expected to contain recommendations on how to build cyber security strength here and how to provide more and better education in digital security techniques still hasn’t seen the light of day.

With an election looming for July at the earliest, the report, which should be a positive for the Turnbull Government can’t be far off.

Speaking on a cyber security panel at the Data61 Live event yesterday, Lynwen Connick the First Assistant Secretary Cyber Policy and Intelligence at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the public servant with carriage of the report said it would pop “shortly.”

Beyond that Ms Connick would not say, but she did provide a taste of what the report would contain, especially around business-to-government linkage and education.

“The thing we have heard most from people is we need to share threat information between business and government. A mechanism to do that is a really important initiative that everyone is looking for.

“We are getting more sophisticated attacks across all sectors so we need to increase our defences,” she said.

Ms Connick said developing cyber security products and services was a great opportunity for Australia. “We have the talent and we are well positioned in our part of the world.”

Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner – who was also on the panel – is bullish for his outfit’s prospects in the cyber security sphere.

Data61 is the rebadged NICTA, which was defunded by the Abbott Government and then swallowed into CSIRO last year, then partly refunded by the Turnbull government.

Mr Turner described cyber security as an arms race in which Australia could be a front runner.

“We can catch up,” he said. “We need to identify those areas where there is a market failure or we have capability and understanding of the problem to build critical mass.”

He listed trustworthy and resilient systems and machine learning based analytics as local strengths.

Data61 has globally renowned know-how in trusted systems through the seL4 team led by Gernot Heiser.The team has developed a highly secure microkernal with the potential for use in everything from pacemakers to drones. The outfit’s machine learning team is one of the top five in the world.

Mr Turner wants to attract sophisticated risk capital to the local cyber security development scene, but warned that investing in digital security was a far scarier proposition for investors than plugging money into run of the mill app development.

“It’s intimidating,” he said.

Meanwhile, the panellists where in furious agreement on the need to train up more local cyber security experts.

Panellist Jackie Craig, the Chief of the Department of Defence’s Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division, bemoaned the lack of women in the sector, as did Ms Connick.

Panellist Craig Davies, Director of Security at Australian tech stock skyrocket Atlassian said students needed to be exposed to hard core, practical cyber security problems.

“They’ve got to learn aggressive techniques – they can’t just learn defence and theoretical approaches,” he said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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