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Commonwealth Bank Australia partners University of New South Wales on cyber security

Australian bank and university work together to train the next generation of cyber security experts

Commonwealth Bank Australia and the University of New South Wales have signed a A$1.6m, five-year partnership to develop a centre of expertise for cyber security education and an online course for students.

Citing statistics from online employment marketplace Seek, the bank said that in the past 12 months, the number of cyber security roles advertised in Australia had grown by more than 60%, but positions were proving difficult and expensive to fill.

Peter Acheson, CEO of recruitment business Peoplebank, agreed that there had been “an explosion in demand for IT security in the last 12 months and it has hotted up again in the last six months”.

Acheson said that when it came to the salaries being paid for specialist security skills, the laws of supply and demand were evident. “Salaries depend on the size of the organisation, but at a major bank, retailer or telco, the head of security would certainly be earning A$300,000-$400,000, and the people reporting to them would be on A$120,000-$170,000,” he said. “Then people with two or three years’ experience could expect $100,000-120,000.”

Acheson said a number of universities were now offering IT security courses, which showed how the area had been “legitimised”, but there were still too few people with specialist skills to fill the roles on offer.

Through their partnership, the university and the bank plan to build a cyber security centre of expertise that will offer a cyber security undergraduate curriculum though a Mooc (massive open online course), a security engineering lab for teaching purposes, will hire new specialist lecturers and will provide support for PhD researchers specialising in the field.

“In today’s interconnected digital world, we are only as strong as our weakest link,” said Ben Heyes, chief information security and trust officer at the Commonwealth Bank. “The Commonwealth Bank recognises a shared responsibility to secure Australia’s digital economy, and we are excited to help educate the next generation of cyber security experts.” 

Current demand for security professionals was not being met either in terms of quality or quantity, said Heyes. 

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Richard Buckland, associate professor in computer security and cyber crime at the University of New South Wales, said the initiative was about “raising the bar for cyber security education across the nation”, and would enable the university to produce more IT security graduates.

“We really believe in applied skills – we don’t want to teach theoretical things just so that people can pass exams,” he said.

Instead, the university would teach cyber attack and defence skills to ensure graduates were immediately valuable to business, he added.

News of the security skills initiative came just a day after the Australian federal government released its National Innovation and Science Agenda, which allocated A$30m to establish a cyber security growth centre.

The centre, which is expected to be in operation by the middle of 2016, is intended to bring together industry, researchers and governments to create a security-focused innovation network, and to co-ordinate Australia’s cyber security research and innovation initiatives. It is also the first concrete initiative to be delivered under the government’s Cyber Security Strategy, which is scheduled for release in 2016.

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