UNSW Summit addresses nation’s shortfall in cybersecurity skills

The nation’s foremost cybersecurity leaders gathered for the inaugural Australian Cybersecurity Education Summit in September with the mission to answer the enigma: how can we produce enough desperately needed cybersecurity experts at scale?

Richard Buckland, Professor of Cybersecurity at UNSW, and Rachel Noble, Head of Australian Cyber Security Centre.The Australian Cybersecurity Education Summit is the brainchild of Professor Richard Buckland, who is the Director of the Security Engineering Capability Institute (SECedu), an Australian-first partnership between UNSW and the Commonwealth Bank that aims to train Australia’s next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Professor Buckland says that the biggest cyber problem Australia faces by far is the lack of cybersecurity experts with the skills and knowledge to counter cyberattacks. He said: “All problems in cyberspace are solvable. The problem is that we don’t have enough hands. I’d go so far to say that cybersecurity, if left unchecked, is an existential threat to our modern world. This is because cybercrime erodes trust, and most of the systems and institutes we rely on operate on a foundation of trust.

“If it becomes impossible to trust your government, or even your own smartphone, house or car, society will be in trouble.”

Addressing this skills gap is central to the objectives of the Summit. As Australia’s first cybersecurity summit focused exclusively on education, it brought together the nation’s leading cybersecurity experts to counter the major skills shortage.

“We need to facilitate and nurture practical partnerships and improve how we teach and grow talented cyber experts to position Australia as a global cybersecurity leader into the future,” Professor Buckland said.

The Summit was a full day of exploration and engagement with Australia’s leading cyber educators, major industry and government employers of cybersecurity professionals, students and graduates.

Brendan Hopper, General Manager of CommBank’s Cyber Security Centre, is a founding member of SECedu. He said the Summit was about building the cyber education bandwidth needed in Australia and working out how best to get the topic on the national agenda.

“It is imperative that people are safe whenever they use or interact with technology. Our lives are increasingly moving online, and cybersecurity education is a key building block in the safe use of technology,” he said.

Australia can lead in cybersecurity

“Australia has the opportunity to make use of its highly trusted position internationally and strong foundation in STEM and computer science education to grow the next generation of talented cybersecurity professionals. We need graduates who are trained and capable to challenge the status quo and make progress on the sizeable challenges we face in the cybersecurity industry.”

Mr Hopper said his vision is for Australia to be a net exporter of cyber talent and innovation.

“In my mind the gap should be addressed by creating 'cybersecurity scientists' – people who will ask the big questions, challenge existing assumptions, and sustainably define and solve big cyber issues,” he said.

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