With the 2019-20 Federal Australian Government budget firmly focused on creating a ‘safe and strong’ Australia, we believe fostering talent in cybersecurity has never been more important. Announced April 2, the budget proposes investment of AUD $3.4 million in female STEM initiatives, AUD $570 million to enhance national security, and a whole-of-government cyber uplift program, including the creation of “cyber sprint teams” under the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), as well as a Cyber Security Response Fund to help bolster systems and respond quickly to cyber-attacks.
This year, BlackBerry partnered with AustCyber, the Australian Cyber Growth Network, as one of the pilot sponsors for the 2019 CyperTaipan Challenge. This cybersecurity competition is modelled on the U.S. Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program, putting teams of high school age students in the position of newly hired IT professionals, tasked with managing the network of a small company.
On Saturday 16 March, we witnessed talented and capable young Australians solving complex problems using a broad range of skills, many of which form the foundation of careers in cyber.
Nearly 40 students aged 12 to 18 from all over the country came together to compete in the pilot National Finals, with The Southport School (TSS) from the Gold Coast, Queensland, taking home the prestigious title in an awards ceremony hosted at Parliament House. Lake Tuggeranong College from the ACT took second place, and Victoria-based Australian Air Force Cadets, 415 Squadron came third. You can check out our video:
Cybersecurity is a multi-billion-dollar industry in Australia – offering endless career opportunities
AustCyber’s Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan 2018 states that the Australian cybersecurity sector has the potential to almost triple in size in coming years, with revenues soaring from just over A$2 billion in 2016 to A$6 billion by 2026.
In this same period, we know that A$1 trillion will be spent on cybersecurity products and services in the Indo-Pacific alone. However, the opportunity is hindered by a massive skills gap of cybersecurity professionals. Australia needs almost 18,000 additional cyber security workers by 2026 to harness its full growth potential.
It is a common misconception that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are going to replace jobs, when in fact, it is just the opposite. Recently, AI threat-prevention company Cylance become part of the BlackBerry family. Jason Duerden, Australia and New Zealand Country Manager for BlackBerry Cylance, confirms that these innovations are going to enable cyber professionals to do even more.
Jason says, “An AI system replacing the human in the context of Skynet in the movie ‘Terminator’ is not realistic in terms of what the goals are for AI and machine learning in cyber. The application of these technologies is about solving the scalability problem. As threats grow in size and change in nature, we can’t scale using only people.”
“In the connected and data-driven world we live in, where constant change is the reality, we need to think about the security-threat scenario differently. If we are struggling to keep pace solving these challenges today with people, how can we possibly solve these issues tomorrow when the threats just keep multiplying? AI helps organisations and individuals address this by automating day-to-day tasks so we can focus resources on other innovative programs and areas of business.”
Michelle Price, CEO of AustCyber agrees. “It’s not just about the intersection of AI and machine learning into the traditional ways of how humans go about their lives. It’s also how we make those interactions cyber resilient.”
Not just for IT professionals
It’s a common misconception that to work in cybersecurity you need a Masters in computer science or IT. The future workforce of the industry is so much broader than that. Companies like BlackBerry don’t just need people with strong skills in maths and science who want careers in IT. The industry also needs critical thinkers, forensic investigators, problem solvers and good communicators who can speak to business leaders, educators, peers, and everyday Australians. The point is, there are a range of different skills that are required to thrive in an industry evolving as rapidly as cybersecurity.
For example at BlackBerry, we have teams of people assisting healthcare organisations with more secure ways to share personal and critical information so they can advance patient care, such as Melanoma Institute Australia. We also have cybersecurity teams helping companies around the world to hunt for threats. Our people are working with car manufacturers and medical device manufacturers in areas such as areas such as robotics, device security, sensor fusion, functional safety, analytics, medical devices and autonomous vehicles. The examples are endless.
What does this mean for Australians?
Australia is just waking up to the opportunities available with AI and cybersecurity as a sector of its economy. There are hundreds of Australian companies developing innovative solutions for the nation and the world. On home soil, we have a genuine strength in both technology capability but also in how our people can contribute to fighting against malicious cyber activity, from preschool age through to how senior Australians engage in a cyber physical world. Did you know that grandmothers can hack you too?
What is needed to grow the industry and address the skills gaps is collaboration between government organisations, private industry and educational institutions. This is imperative, so the industry can share best practice and knowledge and build the next generation of cybersecurity experts for Australia. That’s one of the many reasons BlackBerry is proud to partner with AustCyber.
The work done by AustCyber is really important to grow Australia’s cyber security ecosystem, export Australis’s cyber capabilities to the world, and establish Australia as the leading centre for cybersecurity education.
Price said, “Australia needs to nurture early interest in cyber security to attract the best and brightest to the sector, continue to ramp up cyber security education and training, and create industry-led professional development pathways. We also need to help workers with related skills transition from the wider IT sector and other industries into the diverse range of cyber security technical and non-technical work roles required by employees.”
Our advice to students is to investigate what a career in cybersecurity looks like, talk to people who are in the industry, do some research. Is important to know the industry is looking for a broad range of business and technology skills and even more important to understand how much opportunity there is for people looking for a career in this space. It is limitless.