Carlo Minassian, whose company Earthwave protects Australian government and corporate systems, says we need a rethink of cyber defence education immediately.
“Around the world we see major players, like the US and Europe, building up their ranks of cybersecurity talent. Corporates are doing the same. Australia simply does not have enough home-grown cybersecurity talent to protect our country. We must import it, while simultaneously cultivating it here on our own soil.”
Earlier this year Minassian made a public call for a unified civil cyber defence approach to protect critical Australian infrastructure, said that the political debate was out of step with market reality. He believes a growing number of potential employers are competing for a severely limited number of top tier cybersecurity talent.
“There is a finite global pool of these people. Even without 457 visa uncertainty we risk missing out because of our distance from larger markets,” Minassian says.
“We just saw the US enter the recruitment market in a huge way by more than quadrupling the size of their cyber command by 4,000 technical personnel. US defence officials recently acknowledged that they will be hard pressed to find the talent. If the US, which is like a giant sponge sucking up all this talent, is going to find it difficult, where do you think that leaves Australia?”
Minassian’s call is echoed by Professor Michael Blumenstein of Griffith University’s School of Information and Communications Technology. “If we don’t do something about this skills shortage, Australia will be so far behind everyone else that catching up may be nearly impossible,” says Professor Blumenstein.
“The problem in Australia is that there is little public and business understanding of the precariousness of our cybersecurity situation. As a nation we need to raise this awareness and seriously incentivise cybersecurity education so that the best of the best are attracted to this vital area.”
“State actors and especially cyber criminals will increasingly see Australia as a path of least resistance if security isn’t taken seriously. We can’t afford to become a soft target because we are not investing enough in our education or thinking intelligently about what resources –whether from abroad or domestic—we need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.”
According to Minassian, if Australia is to increase and successfully staff the kind of cybersecurity force needed to defend the country’s cyber borders, a major change to the educational development system must take place. Minassian says an effective Australian approach would likely be akin to what is happening in Israel, where at an early age talented youth are now identified and involved in high-tech programs, entry-level government job opportunities for high school and college students have been created and well-funded and the country’s National Cyber Bureau is training students for work in advanced cyber security by using teachers who themselves are former intelligence operativess with extensive cyber expertise.