Our future cyber security industry

David Gee offers his thoughts on how Australia can build a flourishing information security industry

The current dialogue between industry, academia and startups on cyber security is unparalleled. Today before an audience in Sydney that exceeded 200 people, the National Cyber Fintech Security Summit was launched.

The inaugural event, which followed a private National Cyber Security Fintech Roundtable, is the start of an unstoppable force. As a nation we are trying to build a strong cyber security industry.

A slice of the pie

If you don’t believe it makes sense to invest our efforts here, then consider the comments by Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst, IT-Harvest, who spoke about the 34 per cent compound growth in cyber security that has led to development of a $639 billion industry.

It may not sustain a 34 per cent growth, but it will clearly continue to be a larger and larger industry. Don’t forget that this is constantly evolving space; for example, it appears that Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) have pivoted to ransomware.

How developed is the current industry in Australia versus others? A look at the number of security startups gives some indication:

  • USA 827
  • Israel 228
  • UK 76
  • Canada 49
  • India 41
  • Germany 33
  • France 25
  • Australia 15

The USA with 827 startups, accounts for 57 per cent of all cyber security startups. We sit in eighth place globally. While that sounds we are punching above our weight, there is upside in making a play to move up the ladder.But right now the state of Michigan has the same number of startups as Australia.

The opportunity

Dr Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist, noted that already hi-tech and driverless cars are subject to cyber security attacks.The fact is that hackers have already found their way into the entertainment systems of Mercedes and BMW vehicles.

He added that preventative health is the appropriate model to adopt, just like the human body. It is preferable to adopt this approach rather than treating symptoms after they are detected.

With focus on digital and cyber comes the development of new industries.This has already progressed in the UK, with its strong financial services industry. As a result, the UK now has 100,000 citizens working in the cyber security industry.

The other argument is that it just makes sense for Australia to invest in cyber security. Alex Scanderra, CEO at Stone & Chalk, argued: “We shouldn’t be outsourcing our defence to other countries.”

Simply put, that is what is happening currently. Scanderra added that necessity is the mother of invention: We need to focus on the fact that cyber security is critical. In Israel students are identified in STEM early in their education and then after their few years of national service create a cyber security startup.

The way forward?

It is clear that collaboration is required, and this happens now to a degree between a number of the large banks when it comes to sharing threat intelligence. But this needs to be ‘on steroids’.

One initiative Stone & Chalk is planning to launch is ‘becoming startup ready’, which will make it easier for startups and enterprise to stage pilots. Again this is good, but much more is needed and the roadmap for making these changes is not yet clear.

We have seen a few moves on the chessboard, but a significant degree of detail needs to be added.

Cyber security has to be a priority and remain that way not for the short term but essentially for the foreseeable future. Cyber security can’t be flavor of the month. We have to consider it as a medium to long term opportunity.

This has to start across a number of fronts in industry, schools, universities, startups and government. When all of these factors are aligned, we will then have a decent fist at perhaps aiming to overtake Canada in fourth place.

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