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Sovereign Cyber Capabilities

Australia used to be an economy almost reliant on British networks; Australia now uses its location as a launching pad for technologies to underdeveloped economies in the southeast-Asian region. The same is for migration, where the majority were predominantly British migrants; with the easing of restrictions, many of the neighbouring countries’ economic migrants can choose Australia. Why is it that Australia is opening its borders for migrants and closing its borders on technological capabilities? This White paper argues that sovereign technology is bad for the economy. Australia must choose a globalised technology transfer trade future to match its people, companies, technology, and tech-defence ambitions. Certain industries require sovereign capabilities – such as defence; for corporate Australia – it is a whitewash of technology.

Government agencies down to schools want to educate the next generation of Australians in offensive and defensive cybersecurity by re-inventing existing technologies from friendly nations, ready for adoption, to protect our digital borders. For example, The Digital Transformation Agency has taken the next step towards the centralisation of federal government networks through cyber hubs, calling on local industry to help shape the concept. And another example, Defence has a large stake in building the national STEM talent pool. With approximately 30 per cent of civilian roles and more than 40 per cent of military roles being STEM-enabled, our requirement for STEM capable people will only continue to grow. We must raise awareness of the career opportunities in the defence industry and support national efforts to improve uptake of STEM studies and careers. It is super that Australians are being encouraged to take up technological-focused future-facing jobs, though economically, it is inefficient to train a highly-expensive workforce to compete with solutions that have invested in the fixed costs of schooling and supercomputers already and are producing unicorn-sized technology at unparalleled development speeds. 

Israel, as a country, found itself to be at the forefront of cyber-espionage and cyber-attacks since the inception of the industry in the 1970s, through intelligence defence units, namely 8200, and scores of graduates have progressed with schooling and turned out 100s of capable Israeli companies that are masters in cybersecurity warfare. Israel is a friendly country with Australia; Australia wanting to shun this to educate itself shows a lack of diversity and could be considered akin to the White Australia Policy.

Our modern-day enemy in cyberwarfare is State-based attacks from advanced powers initiated in the East. Our modern-day allies are deemed as the “five eyes,” though this is not sufficient. Australia has recently allowed the Israeli offensive cybersecurity course group ThriveDX to educate Australian high school graduates and older students to hack, which will be beneficial in the immediacy to employ graduates for the blue teams. The reverse, red teams, can be educated through the Israeli CyberGym that upskills IT workforces. Education from the bottom-up is positive, and in the meantime, adopting existing capabilities will help in the short run, while Australia pivots an engineering study revolution to information technology for the future.

On a Federal level, Australia does not have many remaining fully public utilities to defend from malicious attacks since the privatization of the past few decades. There are too many Australian autonomous disconnected regulatory government organisations that do not accept International Organisational for Standards (ISO) accreditations, nor integrate foreign technologies. Australia is an island nation by landmass with penetrable digital borders open for warfare. Attackers could theoretically target State-based and privately-owned water utility organisations, shutting down sanitation centres and polluting drinking water.

The Israeli company Radiflow offers risk assessment and management solutions grounded in a deep understanding of the OT/ICS security arena. They empower customers to manage their threats with top-notch innovative OT cyber security solutions and to optimize OT-security expenditure with ROI-based solutions. Another innovative company, Sdema Group, was founded in 2005 by former leaders of national security agencies. They specialise in dynamic security concept design and master planning. With four integrated service groups—cybersecurity, physical security, emergency & disaster management, and intelligence — Sdema’s core expertise is the security of critical national assets such as energy production facilities, water supply, mass transportation systems, and industrial plants. Australian government representatives on Federal, State, and Local levels, are invited to Water Emergency @ IL, Israel’s dedicated Water Emergency event, where a cyberattack simulation on water utilities will occur.

If Australia is not open for business, it is dangerous on a national and micro level. Australian authorities must embrace their allies and seek the most efficient solutions to existing current problems. Promoting Australian-made sovereign solutions means that Australia is turning the clock back a century to a White Australia policy. Existential threats exist now. Australia has made educational mistakes in the past. Now is not the time to continue making mistakes. Allocate resources more efficiently and look to the world leaders in cybersecurity. Like the United States of America do. Like the United Kingdom do. Australia will not win the supercomputer war on cybercrime and cyberthreats with sovereign capabilities because there isn’t the workforce to create the technologies needed, advance the desired measures, and support the non-established industry. Look to Israel, the country that needed to pivot decades ago. Israel is fighting cybercrime every day and winning.

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