NICTA concerned over IT security brain drain

Lack of a “strong cybersecurity ecosystem” is driving many Australian graduates overseas says NICTA’s Gernot Heiser

Australia needs to create a cybersecurity ecosystem of companies so there are more opportunities for computer scientist and software engineering graduates according to NICTA software systems research group leader Scientia Professor Gernot Heiser.

“We are turning out excellent students with deep computer science training combined with first-rate engineering skills, but the challenging jobs aren’t here. These graduates should be able to get good jobs in Australia and build new companies here,” he said.

“Instead, we are buying cybersecurity expertise from overseas, when it actually makes more economic sense to do critical software development here than in Silicon Valley.”

NICTA security and environment business team director Doctor Jodi Steel added that although Australia was home to “first-rate expertise”, there needed to be a dedicated focus across government, research and the information security industry to create more job opportunities.

“We have some impressive companies in this space, many of which are already internationally competitive, like Senetas, iWebGate, M5 Network Security and Packetloop. We want to continue to encourage this kind of local innovation and growth,” said Dr Steel.

According to Steel, the NSW Government’s Position Paper on Defence released in September was a positive step towards connecting security companies with government research organisations and universities.

The Paper is designed to promote investment in defence by marketing the capabilities of the NSW defence industry — including cyber security.

“We should now be joining the dots to build a dynamic ecosystem around cybersecurity across the nation. Israel, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States have all done this,” she said.

For example, Israel has established a National Cyber Bureau which trains students for work in advanced cyber security. In addition, entry-level government job opportunities for high school students have been created and funded by the Israeli government.

In a bid to bring more defence/cyber security research to Australia, NICTA is participating in a four-and-a-half-year [[artnid:442247|program|new] ]to help protect US military drones from cyber attack. The program, which was announced in November 2012, is funded by the US government’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

As part of the program, NICTA researchers recently demonstrated a test drone with flight-control software which uses NICTA’s eChronos operating system (OS).

According to Steel, the technology will be transferred to military drones over the next three years. The drone will be also be tested by cyber security experts to make sure the eChronos OS can’t be hacked.

The project is based on the seL4 microkernel, which NICTA developed to ensure protection in complex computer systems.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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