Australia’s Maturing Cybersecurity

3 min read
October 17, 2016

Watching Prime Minister Turnbull’s opening remarks to the SINET 61 (Security Innovation Network) event in Sydney just a few weeks ago – during which he mentioned QuintessenceLabs – my colleagues and I couldn’t help but think about how Australia’s cybersecurity efforts are beginning to take off. Not because of the name check, of course, but the growing focus and leadership that the government is providing to help strengthen the rapidly advancing private sector. The Australian National Cyber Security Strategy announced in April, the first since 2009, is a great start, as is the National Innovation and Science Strategy and Defense White Paper, revitalising the approach of the Australian Government to cyber policy, cybersecurity and digital commerce.

A report issued last month by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a non-partisan think tank, ranked Australia fourth in cyber maturity out of 23 APAC countries. It rose from its 5th spot last year to a place firmly within the lead group comprised of the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Singapore. On the other hand, Australia does not yet spend as much as other developed nations on cybersecurity, so additional efforts may be needed. Even with increased funding, cyber-spend alone would not be a panacea or reason for complacency: the UK spent £1 billion over the past five years only to have nearly 90 percent of its businesses experience some kind of data breach in 2015, according to a survey conducted by PWC UK for the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

There are other means for enhancing cybersecurity, which were not the focus of the above reports, and in which Australia is particularly strong. This is founded on the vibrant research underway at Australian universities, often in conjunction with private companies, who are advancing Australia’s technological capabilities in this and other domains.

I admit that I’m a little biased on the value of academic and corporate partnerships. I work for a company that grew from our founder’s work at The Australian National University (ANU), and continues to build on “frontiers-of-science” research conducted there. I see examples of how powerful a relationship avodart hair loss like this can be all the time. Companies rarely have the time and the resources to spend on the foundational science behind their products, and academia doesn’t always have the ability to take an idea from theory to prototype, let alone to commercial production. Together, they can move mountains.

The research into the practical uses of quantum mechanics is a particularly bright spot in Australian higher education. Researchers at the ANU and other institutions, such as the University of New South Wales and the Quantum Research Group at the University of Sydney among several others, are leading the charge toward new ultra-powerful quantum computers. One reason they have been successful is due to the support of the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Quantum Computation & Communications Technology.

Quantum mechanics is both a challenge and a blessing for the future of cybersecurity. Quantum computers will soon be so powerful that they will be able to break most public key encryption protocols and threaten even symmetric encryption protocols with insufficiently long or strong keys. Thankfully, firms such as QuintessenceLabs have found a way to fight quantum with quantum, strengthening data protection against today’s and tomorrow’s sophisticated threats. For example, QuintessenceLabs generates fully random keys from a quantum source, and develops key exchange methods secured by the laws of quantum physics.

Government is still important, of course, and for reasons that go beyond funding. Fostering successful public-private partnerships is one way government can be influential, without laying out boatloads of cash. On that score, Australia is in good shape. The country is smart to have made public-private partnerships and investment in enterprise a significant part of the Cyber Security Strategy. Even smarter is the encouragement of relationships between the market and academia. And of course government plays an essential role in being a consumer and adopter of technology.

Cybersecurity in Australia looks to be on the right track, and gaining momentum. Burgeoning public-private partnerships, and close collaboration between scientists and business people, are helping to accelerate cybersecurity efforts country wide.