Monday, 07 September 2020 09:49

Australian cyber companies collaborate on online training program for Defence Force Featured

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A group of Australian sovereign cyber companies are claiming an Australia-first collaboration to create a successful pilot of a fully online, collective cyber training program for the Australian Defence Force.

The companies - Cydarm, Elttam, Penten and Retrospect Labs - each with expertise in niche cyber technology, came together to tailor a solution for the ADF on FifthDomain’s cyber training platform.

The fully online training program was conducted from FifthDomain’s headquarters in Canberra, and was delivered remotely to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel across the country over a three-week timeframe.

The companies say the aim of the Accelerated Defence Cyber Training (ADCT) Program “echoes the current need for remotely accessible training programs while also addressing the requirement to rapidly increase cyber skills across Defence and industry”.

The program included a “highly realistic” virtual environment with simulated exercises, with the trainees grouped into virtual teams to remediate vulnerabilities and respond to simulated and real threat actors.

On the final day of the pilot, Major General Marcus Thompson, Head of Information Warfare Division, ADF, visited FifthDomain’s office within UNSW’s Launch Precinct to connect virtually with over 50 program trainees and congratulate the Australian consortium partners for their achievement.

“Building home-grown cyber capabilities is a team effort. In Defence, we’re developing our capabilities in an increasingly connected world – which extends to the battlefield. The collaboration of local SME’s to support the training progression of ADF cyber operators gives me great confidence that we’re on the right track. I commend our partners Fifth Domain, Penten, Cydarm, Elttam and Retrospect Labs for contributing to the acceleration of ADF cyber training,” said Thompson.

Michelle Price, AustCyber CEO, said “this is a real-world demonstration of the strength of Australia’s cyber security ecosystem”.

“Seeing five sovereign cyber businesses come together to provide a virtual training platform for Defence is a great example of the strong cyber security sector in Australia and shows that Australian cyber businesses can provide the solutions Defence needs. A strong domestic cyber security sector is critical for Australia’s competitiveness and reputation as a trusted place to do business.”

The pilot saw Cydarm, a Melbourne-based business, deployed their case management platform and dashboard as a command and control system to coordinate team activities and provide oversight for the mentors, enabling trainees in the cybersecurity operations teams to collaborate on responding to incidents while the mentors continually assessed their progress.

Vaughan Shanks, CEO of Cydarm Technologies said "developing home-grown expertise is a key objective of the Australian government as it focuses on building sovereign cyber capability to generate jobs, defend Australia and export these solutions to the Asia Pacific region and around the world".

Elttam, an independent Australian security company which specialises in high-quality offensive and defensive security services, played the role of cyber threat actors for the ADF trainees. 

“We were proud to tailor realistic adversarial scenarios for Defence based on industry experience. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the partnering Australian companies as part of the ADCT Program,” said Matt Jones, Director and Co-founder of Elttam.

CEO Matt Wilcox of FifthDomain - the training project lead and provider of the platform, and an Australian specialist cyber operations workforce development and management development company based in Canberra - said: “We are proud to be leading this sovereign capability to deliver this unique solution for Defence. FifthDomain’s cyber ranges benefit by being able to integrate niche technologies from our partners to provide Defence the best of breed Australian cyber innovation. And within the context of COVID-19 limitations, the sovereign, remotely accessible platform enables Defence to overcome travel and supply chain challenges to successfully achieve this goal.”

Ben Whitham, Founder and Director of Canberra-based technology company Penten said “this is another example of sovereign capability and what we can achieved when we collaborate”.

“Although this is only the first step working together, the combined solution of additional realism and automation will enhance the training outcomes, reduce the time taken to create the environments and improve the repeatability.”

Retrospect Labs is building a cyber security exercise platform that it says takes the burden out of conducting cyber security exercises, with the platform making exercises easy to design, execute, and evaluate, so that organisations can continually practice - and perfect - their response to any cyber incident. 

Jason Pang, CEO of Retrospect Labs said “What we did, together, showcases the awesome home-grown talent boutique Australian companies have to offer, and their ability to work so closely together in a way that rivals, and in many ways outshines, the offerings of many established, traditional cyber firms.”

The companies say delivery of the program closely aligns with Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020, released in early August 2020, which commits $1.67 billion investment over 10 years, and outlines a range of initiatives including the growth of the country’s cyber skills pipeline as one of its key recommendations. 

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