Australians have the cyber security skills and knowledge to thrive in the digital age.

To achieve our goal, the Government will:

  • address the shortage of cyber security professionals in the workforce through targeted actions at all levels of Australia’s education system, starting with academic centres of cyber security excellence in universities and by increasing diversity in this workforce.
  • work with the private sector and international partners to raise awareness of the importance of cyber security across our community.

Like many other nations, Australia is suffering from a cyber security skills shortage. These particular skills are essential in our connected, technology-enabled world and they are fundamental to the success of this Strategy. But these same skills are in increasingly short supply – for example, the information security field is expected to see a worldwide deficit of 1.5 million professionals by 2020.

Many Australians and organisations are also simply unaware of the risks they face in cyberspace. Most of us lock our front doors and take care of our belongings, but we do not take the same degree of care with our devices and online information. The Government is committed to equipping Australians with the right cyber security skills and raising levels of cyber security awareness so we can all benefit from the opportunities in cyberspace.

Actions so far

  • Stay Smart Online provides useful advice to help everyone protect personal and financial information online. The Government is coordinating cyber security awareness internationally and has aligned Stay Smart Online Week with the global Cybersecurity Awareness Month coordinated by the US.
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission operates SCAMwatch, providing information to individuals and businesses on identifying and reporting scams.
  • The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner was established to provide information and resources to help guide children and young people towards safe, enjoyable experiences online, coupled with a comprehensive complaints system to assist children who experience serious cyber bullying.
  • The private sector has also invested in developing cyber skills. Box Hill Institute of TAFE in Victoria is developing a twelve-month cyber security apprenticeship with a Certificate IV qualification in conjunction with the private sector. Australian banks and telecommunications businesses have partnered with universities to fund scholarships for students to study technology courses, including cyber security degrees.
  • The Australian Cyber Security Research Institute (ACSRI) is Australia’s first coordinated strategic research and education effort between Government agencies, the private sector and researchers. It seeks to support the Government’s focus on cyber security by bringing together a collaborative network to deliver an Australia-wide approach to respond to cyber threats and improve opportunities for developing highly skilled cyber security professionals.

Demand in Australia for cyber security services and related jobs—such as legal services, insurance and risk management—will grow by at least 21 per cent according to employment projections over the next five years. There will be significant employment and career opportunities for those with appropriate skills.

However, the public and private sectors cannot fill their cyber security vacancies. The situation appears to be worsening—the take-up of ICT-related university degrees (often a precursor for cyber security professionals) has halved over the last decade and graduation rates have dropped. There are several potential explanations for this, including the type and number of courses currently available, and insufficient student awareness of job opportunities.

Develop the right skills and expertise

To build tomorrow’s workforce, the Government will work in partnership with the private sector and academic institutions to improve cyber security education at all levels of the education system. This will help to ensure Australia develops a workforce with the right skills and expertise that can help all Australians take full advantage of the opportunities in cyberspace.

The most urgent need is for highly-skilled cyber security professionals. Academic centres of excellence will enhance the quality of cyber security courses, teachers and professionals in Australia. The standard for gaining accreditation as a centre will be high and maintained through continual rigorous assessment.

The centres will deliver undergraduate and postgraduate cyber security education through a consistent curriculum and superior teaching. The profile of these centres will also help inspire students to think about careers in cyber security and study STEM subjects at school. The quality of graduates from the centres and the career opportunities available to them at home as well as abroad will also help influence up and coming students to seek career paths in Australia.

As well as university graduates with high-end cyber security skills, we need cyber security workers who can provide a range of functions to help organisations secure their networks. The Government will work with the private sector, the States and Territories and Skills Service Organisations to support the expansion of cyber security training in Registered Training Organisations (including TAFEs), potentially including the development of cyber security apprenticeships.

Australia’s cyber security workforce also suffers from low participation from women—which means we are not harnessing the full potential of our talent pool. In worldwide terms, only 10 per cent of information security professionals are women. This too will be addressed through a range of integrated actions developed with the private sector and research community.

The profile of the academic centres of cyber security excellence will also help inspire students to think about careers in cyber security and study STEM subjects at school. Expanding the national annual Cyber Security Challenge Australia from a focus on university students to a broader program of competitions and skills development opportunities for a wider set of participants, including those already in the workforce, will also help generate a sustained national pipeline of cyber security professionals. This includes competitions with other nations.

People at all levels in the workforce, including those in executive-level positions , will have the opportunity to improve their cyber security knowledge and skills by participating in short courses, executive training and other programs that supplement existing Master’s courses with cyber security modules. This will also help increase the quality and quantity of people with cyber security skills.

Raise national cyber security awareness

Underpinning the success of all actions in this Strategy is addressing the comparatively low awareness of cyber security risks in the Australian community. Increasing the understanding of cyber security risks and benefits is one of our strongest defences, together with simple solutions to protect activities online. National behaviour change will ensure Australians are cyber security aware and protect themselves at home, school and work. By raising national cyber security awareness, Australians will protect themselves and others and feel more confident and willing to do business online.

A number of programs in Australian governments, the private sector and overseas have made some headway on improving cyber security awareness in Australian communities and around world. But a more sustained and coordinated effort is needed to achieve broader behavioural change.

The Government will partner with other Australian governments, businesses, researchers and community groups to deliver a sustained, national awareness raising campaign, encompassing a range of activities, which enables all Australians to be secure online.

The program will seek to educate Australians on the real-world impacts of cyber risks and the way this affects our current and future prosperity.

We will also work closely with our international partners to coordinate awareness raising activities regionally and globally, to complement capacity building efforts and increase the collective impact of messages.

The current shortfall in the workforce—and the research and development base which complements it—can only be fixed through investment in sound policy and a long-term education plan that targets high schools and universities to promote careers in the cyber security profession.

Dr Tobias Feakin, Director, International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and member of the Cyber Security Review’s Independent Panel of Experts