Nobody likes to lose money, but imagine losing $30 billion. That’s the cost to the Australian economy of a disruptive cyber attack, according to Prerana Mehta, Chief of Ecosystem Development at AustCyber.

AustCyber is a publicly funded industry initiative to grow Australia’s cyber security sector. The nation needs around 17,000 new cyber jobs, and it is amping up efforts to get there.

Mehta set out how AustCyber is leading the charge; building the resilience of the Australian economy.

The plan

AustCyber’s Digital Trust Report 2020 has identified that digital activity currently contributes $426 billion to the Australian economy. A massive cyber attack lasting four weeks could cost up to 1.5% of GDP, and the loss of 163,000 jobs, she warns.

AustCyber was founded in 2017 to grow the Australian cyber sector, and “build sovereign cyber capabilities available to protect our nation’s economy and community,” she says.

For this, they have AU$15m of grant funding available to enable R&D and kickstart new cyber businesses. State and Territory governments also provide funding contributions to deliver AustCyber’s national network of Cyber Security Innovation Nodes.

“AustCyber believes a strong domestic cyber security industry can play a vital role in protecting our economy and industries and enabling growth through informed uptake of trusted digital technologies,” Mehta says. “Having a national capability as a prominent and strategic part of the cyber security sector overall is fundamental to all Australia’s interests.”

The Australian Government’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy committed to invest AU$1.67 billion over ten years. This investment will allocate AU$118 million to expand data science capabilities. The Australian Government will also invest AU$66.5 million to assist Australia’s major critical infrastructure providers to assess vulnerabilities to enhance their cyber security posture. An additional AU$20.2 million will go to cutting-edge research laboratories.

Our role in AustCyber is to ensure that business, especially SMEs are strategically supported to take advantage of Government programs and policies and help harden the overall cyber security posture for the benefit of the economy, Mehta says.

Skills for tomorrow

Australia needs an extra 16,600 cyber jobs by 2026, according to the AustCyber Sector Competitiveness Plan 2019.

They are looking to do this in a number of ways, including through the Project Funds, which has provided funding to four initiatives. First, they are working with ten technical colleges to coordinate a national curriculum for certificate and advanced diplomas in Cyber Security.

“This includes a set of resources that participants around the country can access, regardless
of their various technical environments,” Mehta says.

Second, the University of Adelaide is developing a Massive Open Online Course to help Australian primary and secondary school teachers upskill themselves and students through cyber security learning modules. This is in partnership with Google and CSIRO.

Third, they have developed an interactive heatmap of supply and demand for cyber jobs in states and metro areas across Australia. This will help job seekers and policymakers find opportunities.

Finally, they will develop an interactive learning platform that supports cyber exercises such as Capture the Flag and training exercises to boost job readiness.

AustCyber’s role is to work with industry and across the cyber security ecosystem to develop products, services and capabilities that assist SMEs to protect against cyber intrusions and cyber criminals.

The scale of the challenge is vast. But with the will, funding, and industry partnerships, AustCyber is confident that it can unlock homegrown cyber potential, and continue to build up resilience.