October 18, 2018

Cyber security specialist shortages could leave Australia vulnerable to attack, experts say

News Source: ABC
Author/s: Stephanie Borys
Originally published Date: October 01, 2017

 

AUSTRALIA: With cyber threats evolving constantly, a shortage of skilled cyber security workers has experts and government worried about Australia becoming vulnerable to an attack.

Key points:

  • Government report estimates need for 11,000 cyber security specialists over next 10 years
  • Experts believe cyber security should be made part of school curriculum
  • Government and private sector ‘will need to work together’ to combat threat

Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (ACSGN) CEO Craig Davies said the demand for skills in the sector had outstripped anyone’s ability to produce skilled candidates.

“It’s such a rocket ship this industry, we have zero unemployment and the demand is massive,” he said.

Mr Davies has been tasked with working out how to fill the current cyber specialist shortage.

“Education and growing that skill set is an important part for our program of work, and we’re working with the vocational sector heavily,” he said.

A recent Government report estimated Australia would need another 11,000 cyber security specialists over the next decade.

The ability to meet that target was possible, Mr Davis said, with the right focus.

While more TAFEs and universities offer specialised courses, there are also calls to make cyber security part of the school curriculum.

Tim Edwards works for Life Journey, an international company specialising in online IT classes for school children.

“If you look at the rise of coding it’s become something that’s really popular, and that’s really great,” he said.

“I think that same sort of momentum needs to happen in cyber security.

“It needs to become common knowledge — more broadly discussed at home, at school.”

But the cyber security industry also has to help itself in order to attract more people, Mr Edwards said.

“It’s been a male-dominated skill for a long time,” he said.

“You miss out on half the population who sometimes could be turned away by these misconceptions about what a STEM career is, or what cyber security careers are.”

The shortage of cyber security specialists is not just an Australian problem.

ISACA, a non-profit information security advocacy group, predicted that there would be a global shortage of cyber security professionals by 2019.

Aside from data attacks, Mr Edwards said the online world gave people the ability to cause harm.

“Cyber threats could evolve into something that could be more violent, ultimately cause loss of life,” he said.

“Right now, I don’t think we’re seeing that on this scale but I think it’s something that could definitely evolve.”

Government and private sector ‘must work together’

Patrick Walsh, a former commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet now employed by an international cybersecurity firm, said online threats were forcing governments to rethink how they protected communities.

“In the past we would have a government approach and we would have a private sector approach,” he said.

“Increasingly we need to leverage each other and we need to find ways to work more collaboratively and more transparently so that information is shared.”

Mr Walsh said it was an ongoing challenge to remain on top of the evolving threat.

“There’s been so many changes in the cyber security environment over a short period of time, it makes me anxious and nervous because there’s a real threat of miscalculation,” he said.

“When you start to wonder whether or not you can trust data and trust the outcome of an election, that starts to undermine public trust in institutions.”

Written by

Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.

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