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Strengthening South Australia’s cyber resilience


The rise in cybercrime means the state must boost cyber security, and that presents valuable training and job opportunities, argues Jim McDowell.

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Ever-evolving. That’s how I describe cyber security and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, our community has adapted through necessity, by adopting and embracing technologies to enable their working, trading, schooling and playing online.

Consequently, there are more opportunities for cybercrime and the South Australian Government must continue to guard its digital assets with the best possible defence.

There is a lot at stake.

We are a defence state, responsible for over $90 billion in defence contracts. We store citizens’ sensitive information and records of their interactions with government services. We record our state’s dealings with national and international jurisdictions, trading information and other sensitive data that could cause irreparable harm if it fell into the wrong hands.

Now, with job creation a pressing priority, there’s no better time to cement South Australia’s position as a leading jurisdiction in cyber security by further anticipating the sector’s needs, investing in digital infrastructure and educating our workforce.

Cyber security already has an astonishing global skill shortage of almost 1.9 million positions sitting vacant, presenting great opportunity for the state to produce skilled cyber security professionals.

Forecasted growth of demand for new cyber security professionals is estimated at 17,000 additional workers by 2026 in Australia alone.

We need coders, security analysts, pen testers and ethical hackers, but we also need non-technical roles such as cyber legal advisers, policy writers, cyber trainers, instructors and educators. There’s also great incentive with the average salary sitting at $112,000 per year.

To gauge the South Australian Government’s competencies, a Cyber Skills Matrix is currently in development using the NICE Framework. The Cyber Skills Matrix will provide key insights into our state’s cyber capabilities and skills whilst serving to inform where investments will deliver the most value and return. The project is undertaking data analysis to understand the trends, strengths and identifying gaps, as well as possible solutions to address these.

This work is being undertaken by the AustCyber SA Node, which sits under a joint federal and state government funded initiative born out of the Australian Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy to establish a national network of nodes as part of the Industry Growth Network agenda.

Outcomes will enhance the existing information already compiled by AustCyber in their mission to ensure Australia has sovereign capability and home grown talent.

We have invested significantly in nation-leading traineeship options available from TAFE SA in partnership with AustCyber. The state now delivers three cyber traineeships:

Piloting in 2020 is the Cyber Mentoring Program – SA Cyber Edition. It connects cyber professionals via the OK RDY mobile platform to participate in virtual mentoring, sharing their unique career pathway, industry trends and helping trainees to better understand and demystify the cyber ecosystem.

Next, the National Cyber Workforce Uplift Working Group is progressing actions recommended by the Federal Office of Home Affairs, Skilling Australia paper. This group led by the SA Office for Cyber Security and the AustCyber SA Node seeks to uplift the skills of the public sector with cyber security training, knowledge and awareness at a national level, creating economies of scale and a united approach to tackling the national problem.

Here, cross-collaboration with the private sector has been prioritised and to demonstrate that, our Office for Cyber Security has recently moved to Lot Fourteen where they can cohabit with other cyber security firms and start-ups within the Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre. My department also includes an Office for Digital Government, Office for Data Analytics and an Office for Technology that collaborate with many industry partners and represent the state on the Australian Data and Digital Council.

Collectively, we provide across government digital leadership, assisting agencies by providing ICT, digital and security policies, guidelines, standards and toolkits.

For the community, we genuinely want to make it easier for South Australians to engage meaningfully, securely and conveniently with government online and I’m pleased to have seen many services successfully make the transition in recent times.

Ensuring citizens can trust government with their personal information in an online environment remains key; we’ve seen how important that is for participation with My Health Record and the COVIDSafe app for example.

Strategically, the SA Cyber Security Strategic Plan 2018-2021 is progressing well with 42 of the 46 planned activities either in progress or completed. Through the deliverables, the government ICT industry is preparing for the era of hybrid and multi-cloud IT environments, through the development of digital identity management and a robust and secure centralised network.

Notably, the new South Australian Cyber Security Framework has now been released, highlighting 21 policy statements that agencies must address as part of their cyber security program.

Lastly, our most recent challenge has been enabling more than 30,000 public sector employees to quickly adopt remote working. It’s no mean feat.

As we improve our technology, educate our workforce and achieve our strategic objectives, I’m confident the South Australian Government can respond to the ever evolving ICT and cyber security landscape.

Ultimately, we’ve adapted and will come out the other side more digitally resilient, ready to embrace new technology.

Jim McDowell is Chief Executive, The Department of the Premier and Cabinet

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