Macquarie-Optus venture targets cybersecurity education at business, academia

Partnership aims to close Australia's cybersecurity skills gap

A cybersecurity skills-development partnership between Sydney's Macquarie University and Optus Business will ramp up quickly to push hundreds or thousands of cybersecurity-skilled engineers, researchers and business executives, into the skills-hungry Australian market, a university administrator has predicted.

Announced this week, the partnership will see the establishment of a $10m Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub (CSH) that will serve as a centre of gravity for public and private collaboration around cybersecurity research and skills development.

Whereas Optus will provide linkages to the business and cybersecurity community, Macquarie University will support the program with full academic programs geared not only at undergraduate and graduate students, but at business leaders and executives.

“There will be hundreds and hundreds of people that get upskilled or trained in a range of different ways,” deputy vice-chancellor (corporate engagement and advancement) David Wilkinson told CSO Australia, adding that this would increase to be three or four times bigger within “the next couple of years”.

The organisations have taken a collaborative approach to the CSH, which will be actively seeking partners to augment its training and educational activities. And while the announcement comes on the heels of the government's National Innovation and Science Agenda and Cyber Security Strategy – which also – Wilkinson said the partnership was independent of that effort.

“Government policy is reacting to the reality of cyber security and so are we,” he said. “It is a multi-disciplinary issue – a business-process issue, a human-behaviour issue and a computer-science issue – and there is a shortage of people now and there will continue to be shortages.”

“You have to have a multi-disciplinary response that's across all levels of the company; the key organising principle here is meeting the needs of industry. If we go at it with that principle, I think we will get it right.”

Programs introduced under the initiative will be focused on Computing & IT, Business & Economics, and Security Studies & Criminology, with what organisers called a 'holistic approach to cybercrime' that includes technical, economic, and policy impacts.

“While cyber attacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication, most organisations lack the right expertise and skills across their business to identify and manage these attacks,” Optus Business managing director John Paitaridis said in a statement.

“As organisations adopt more online and digital channels, they also need to have a fully integrated approach to cyber security involving all staff training, management buy-in, effective technology solutions and knowledge of today’s cyber threats....We are committed to empowering every person, business and organisation to confidently operate in the digital world, and this partnership is a significant step in helping us deliver on that promise.”

Optus will offer the program to its own workforce as well as those of its enterprise and government customers.

Taking a more broad-based approach to cybersecurity skills reflects growing demand for a range of high-demand cybersecurity skills across areas, the lack of which is having an impact on areas such as cloud computing.

As jobs surveys find that security analysts are the most in-demand role in the ICT industry, fixing Australia's cybersecurity skills gap has become a recurring theme for organisations including the Australian Computer Society, which recently advocated for a range of skills-development programs.

Cisco Systems has been targeting CISOs to help them plan strategies to bolster their cybersecurity workforces, while the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has also advocated skills development to counter the “unrelenting” cyber threat facing Australian businesses.

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