Why we need more immigrants for cyber security gaps

There is an undeniable shortage of Cyber Security resources in Australia and the short-term answer has to be to bring talent in from other countries.

My proposal is that we have to re-evaluate our immigration policies and make this process easier. Fortunately for skilled professionals, they can choose to work in about any country that they want. Such is the global supply issues that are in play.

Immigrate to Australia?

In Australia we have a complicated process that on first blush, has to be difficult for non-english speakers. The employee nominated scheme would appear to be the best approach to get someone that is a known talent into your organisation. Effectively you are sponsored in this instance and with the right skills and experience – it is as simple as pressing a button.

To take the 457 skilled temporary visa approach gives you 4 years in Australia, assuming that you fit the criteria.

What are the priorities?

Using the Australian Federal Government Skillselect process, there are specific skills that are identified by industry bodies. At present these are the listed ones:


Systems Analyst


Analyst Programmer


Developer Programmer


Software Engineer


Computer Network and Systems Engineer


Hmmm, sorry but I don’t see Information Security or Cyber Security on this list. I have to trust that the person processing these applications can understand that when they see ‘Information Security’, then this should be given priority.

Cyber Staff are under qualified

Read more: App security suffering as survey finds that most developers still aren't building for mobile

As a result of the shortage of talent and seeming difficulty to bring in new staff from outside of Australia, we have seen CISO and CIO’s instead tapping into adjacent skills in the resources. There are transferrable skills that can be re-trained from network administrators, system administrators, and programmers.

While I understand the pressure to use this approach, this has the resulting effect that these critical roles staffed with resources that are not qualified for the job.

How bad is this issue? Is this an exaggeration and we should actually focus on real issues at hand??

Actually it’s worse than you think

In a recent study State of Cybersecurity: Implications for 2015”, fewer than 25% of cyber security applicants are qualified to perform the skills necessary for the job.

Taking this in plain english - 75% of staff in cyber security are effectively learning on the job.

The longer term implication is that enterprises are not ready to address the harder issues, and these are postponed or simply delayed. Perhaps we have just been lucky that hackers have been making bigger impact breaches elsewhere?

But real the frightening prospect, is that our under trained staff just are not able to detect these breaches and the 200 days average may indeed be longer in Australia.

The Inside Lane

Just to end on a ‘darker’ note, with a global shortage of staff it is actually easier for rogues to be accepted into an organisation as a new hire. Our screening processes have to be increased and referencing made even more robust.

In our frustration to hire we take on rogue outsiders, who are just pretending to be ‘white’ hat.Once a low-key rogue is on the inside, then the risks increase exponentially.

We need to address our cyber security gaps and this will need to be comprehensive approach using education and training to grow our own. Also a more concerted campaign to attract cyber security talents to move permanently to Australia.

Grow your Own

Growing our on base of talent has to be the medium and longer term answer. We will need to develop and mentor this talent, while at the same time ensuring that they don’t become arrogant given all the hiring attention that they will receive.

The stakes are high in a digital world, and Cyber Security is as much an enabler of the business as Agile Development. Once we realise this, we will then give the appropriate level of focus this issue deserves.

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