Sharing to improve skills access as government cybersecurity policy normalises collaboration

Government support for Australia's emergent cybersecurity industry will provide much-needed impetus for better collaboration amongst the country's many security specialists, one Australian security entrepreneur has argued in the wake of the federal Budget's reassertion of support for the sector.

The government's Cyber Security Strategy (CSS), launched last month, offered an outline of the Budget's commitment to bolster national cybersecurity defences – including a $47.3m commitment to establish Joint Cyber Threat Centres and an online threat-sharing portal designed to coalesce the industry around the idea of aligning private and public security interests for a common national cybersecurity defence.

Such broad collaboration would encourage better sharing of information on threats – and Craig McDonald, founder and CEO of long-running Australian security vendor Mailguard, is ready to throw his resources behind the effort. “We've got great intelligence that we can be sharing with other groups,” he told CSO Australia. “We're happy to do that and we do that today. The CSS announcement has highlighted that this definitely is an issue and is unlikely to go away without a group effort to close the gap on cybercrime.”

Mailguard, which was founded 15 years ago and claims a customer base spread across 27 countries, is “typically 2 to 48 hours ahead of the market on threats, particularly those around email and the Web,” McDonald said. The willingness of other companies to share similar information, he added, “will be a lead indicator into other areas – but we won't know until we start collaborating with other groups.”

Fostering that collaboration is a key strategic goal of the CSS, which has been positioned as a unifier as much as a strategic direction. Its efforts to decentralise the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACSC), for example, will allow security specialists around the country to network through regional centres much closer to their own research facilities.

Furthermore, high-level engagement with overseas law-enforcement bodies will provide key linkages that will offer new opportunities for engagement for both private and public-sector organisations. Better sharing amongst cybersecurity experts will also improve access to scarce cybersecurity skills – an ongoing and limiting factor for security change that has helped make security consultancy UXC Saltbush largely receptive to the CSS's designs – with CISO Clem Colman calling the strategy's calls for a National Cyber Partnership a “comforting” way of addressing the chronic security-skills deficit.

“When it comes to skilled security resources in Australia, there are simply not enough to go around,” Colman said in a statement calling for skills development at the TAFE level. “The government needs to work with industry, not in competition with it.” The company's cyber security national practice lead David Jarvis, however, took a more “qualified” appraisal of the policy, warning that the industry doesn't need more good-practice guides but conceding that the CSS offered “one enormously positive thing.”

“It offers leadership from the top,” he said, “which is essential to achieving cultural change. It's an excellent sign that the government's new strategy takes into account that cultural change is the end game.”

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