Cyber Security Education and Skills

The Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS) at UNSW Canberra has launched a three-year investigation of information security education policy and pedagogy, with special reference to Australia. The project will include academic papers, workshops and three annual flagship publications between now and 2019. We launched the project with a seminar and ACCS Discussion Paper No. 4:  Mastering the Cyber Security Skills Crisis: Realigning Education Outcomes to Industry Requirements in August 2017.

The first one-day international academic workshop scheduled for 27 November is intended to stimulate fresh ideas and policy proposals for framing and managing cyber security education in ways that create new synergies between universities, business, governments and the less structured creative communities, both within and across national borders. The papers from this first annual conference will be published in an edited volume in 2018. The Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is co-sponsoring the conference. The academic workshop on 27 November will be followed by a one-day policy workshop on 28 November, from which a summary report will be published. These two days of work, with international scholars participating, will create a new foundation for the ACCS Research Group on Cyber Security Education and Skills.

In advance of the research workshop, ACCS released a Briefing Paper,  Human Capital for Cyber Security: The Australian Case

The Australia Case

On the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, Australia’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan, joined the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in a commemorative visit to Israel. Tehan, who is concurrently Assistant Minister to the PM for Cyber Security, used the opportunity and most of his time in Israel to also lead a delegation from industry, government, and academia to stimulate closer ties between the two countries in the realm of cyber security. To that end, Israel and Australia agreed to a communique, committing them to concrete bilateral measures in the field. There is considerable potential. For this author who participated in the visit, one of the most educational parts of the visit was to learn about Israel’s policies for human capital formation for security in cyber space. Israel has both a policy and concrete national level actions to advance its agenda for national cyber security education.

In contrast, as I noted in a recent publication for the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, many of our government’s new commitments to education in its landmark Cyber Security Strategy of 2016 were fairly generalized, lacking granularity and far from concrete.1 These included an intention to increase numbers for cyber security graduates, women in the profession, and school students “in the know”. The first annual review in April 2017 showed little progress on the education objectives, which are after all the foundation for any enduring change in all other areas of policy. In the medium term, we will need the government to provide some metrics on how many graduates in the field, and its various sub-fields, we actually need. We also need to see the baseline statistics for any future growth. In 2017, the government announced very modest funding to two Australian universities to promote cyber security education ($1.9 million over four years) and a more generous funding ($50 million over seven years) for a cooperative research centre (CRC) in protection of national critical infrastructure in cyber space. These are easy measures to announce and fund, but much harder to test and evaluate for their contribution to the national needs. For example, the CRC is primarily a research vehicle. While it will have useful and important flow-on effects in formal university courses, that will be a slow and accidental process.

Australia has some way to travel yet before it graduates to a coherent national cyber security strategy, fully informed by global realities and funded accordingly. Australia does not yet have a national strategy for developing a sovereign cyber security knowledge economy that can sustain the war-fighting needs of the country in cyber space. This discussion paper, containing two brief notes, has been prepared as a background resource for an international workshop on cyber security education at the University of New South Wales Canberra on 27 and 28 November 2017.

The China Case: Rise and Fall of Chinese Ph D Completions in Cyber Security

In advamce of the conference, the ACCS also released a Briefing Paper, Data on China's Ph D Completions Related to Cyber Security. Authored by Lu Wenze, a graduate student at UNSW Canberra, the briefing paper analyses available public data on the main subjects of completed PhD dissertations in China to determine trends in completions on the separate subjects of cyber security, information security, quantum communications/quantum computing, and artificial intelligence. It has been prepared in support of a research project led by Professor Greg Austin on cyber security education at the Australian Centre for Cyber Security (ACCS) in the University of New South Wales Canberra. The briefing paper is also related to a book on “Cyber Security in China” in publication with Springer and authored by Professor Greg Austin. This paper provides raw data only which is still being analysed. It is being published informally to provoke discussion about the possible causes of the main trend that it identifies: that between 2011 and 2017 there has been a marked downturn in Ph D completions in China on key subjects relating to cyber security.