A global shortage of cybersecurity professionals is impacting Australia as government departments, corporations and businesses compete for talent, in response to an increasing number of attacks.
According to annual surveys by Telstra, almost 60 per cent of businesses experienced at least one disruptive security breach a month in 2016, compared to just 23.7 per cent the previous year.
This news comes soon after attorney general George Brandis sought to revive a debate that has continued for several years about granting governments greater access to encrypted messaging communication to aid criminal investigations.
His calls for increased access (though he stresses it would not be a ‘backdoor’ into communications or systems) have been met with heavy criticism and accusations of Brandis’s misunderstanding of cyber vulnerabilities.
In an interview with Sky News, Brandis said he would ‘approach the Five Eyes intelligence network – made up of the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – to ask them to consider imposing greater legal obligations on device makers and social media companies “to cooperate with authorities in decrypting communications”.
There are concerns (similar to the iPhone encryption/unlocking debate from 2016) that giving the government a backdoor into otherwise secure devices would allow hackers or other malicious parties to exploit that backdoor and gain easier entry.
If this program goes ahead it is likely to further increase demand for cyber security graduates, who are already in short supply. Many recent graduates are offered overseas jobs as soon as they graduate, and many of them accept these offers.
"If you're working in the valley and you're working in the security field, it seems to be the most common accent you hear is Australian," Craig Davies, a former chief security information officer with Australian software company Atlassian, said.
Mr Davies, who recently returned home to head up the federal government's Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, is now tasked with developing a thriving local industry.
"We want to grow a very strong cybersecurity ecosystem here in this country — and that's from research, through to commercialisation, through to jobs and companies and opportunities.”
However, universities are concerned changes to the Federal Government's skilled migration program, announced in April, will make it difficult to attract expertise to their institutions.
Under the changes, university lecturers and research fellows who come to Australia on short-term temporary visas will no longer have a pathway to permanent residency.
"The residency provision is one of the most attractive elements of the Australian skilled migration program, and we really need to open that up in a big way, not be limiting it," Greg Austin, a professor at the Centre of Cybersecurity at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, said.
If Australia is going to remain competitive in an increasingly digitised manufacturing space, it is crucial that we put in place policies that will help us attract and train talent.