Cybersecurity skills shortage amid attacks

Matt Coughlan
Australia needs to ramp up cybersecurity training or face a shortage of expertise, experts say

Australia is facing a skills shortage of 18,000 cybersecurity experts by 2026 as the nation fights unprecedented attacks on business, government and critical infrastructure.

A surge in malicious activity revealed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week has highlighted the training gap, with coronavirus border closures squashing the ability to import experts.

RMIT Online chief executive Helen Souness said industry, government and educators needed to work together to address the problem.

"We don't really understand in Australia that we need to constantly update our skills," she told AAP.

"We're in a world now with COVID - who knows when the borders will reopen?

"Traditionally we've done a lot of importing skills and that's been really fantastic to bring in experts in some of these areas. But that's not an option anymore - we have to grow these skills."

Not-for-profit AustCyber's research predicts a shortage of 18,000 cyber experts by 2026.

With unemployment on the rise during the pandemic, Ms Souness believes there's an opportunity to create jobs.

"We've got hundreds of thousands of roles going, we've got new records in unemployment, if only we were upskilling people," Ms Souness said.

"There's a mismatching of the skills people are acquiring and the skill gaps we see in Australia. We really need to act to stay competitive globally."

She's hoping the rise in awareness of cybersecurity threats will prompt more enrolments in the university's postgraduate and short course offerings.

The United States Studies Centre on Tuesday released a new report urging Australia to cooperate more with America on cybersecurity.

That would include aligning healthcare security efforts, sharing best practices and connecting cybersecurity public-private partnerships.

USSC chief executive Simon Jackman said the coronavirus crisis alerted Australia to strategic vulnerabilities.

"Last week's announcement of Australia being hit with persistent, state-backed cyber intrusions is a vivid reminder of the many different ways states can project power and influence in the mid-21st century," Professor Jackman said.