Melbourne becoming Asia’s cybersecurity hub

Cybersecurity is a hot topic and a rapidly growing market, and Melbourne is poised to reap the benefits.

The federal government estimates the global cyber security market is worth more than A$100 billion a year and expects it to more than double by 2020.

Responding rapidly, Melbourne is developing a cluster of cyber security capability and is home to world-leading cyber-security firms such as Senetas and Forticode.

Historical advantage

Senetas exports its data encryption hardware to more than 30 countries and counts the USA’s Department of Defence as a major customer.

Senetas CMO Simon Galbally says Melbourne is fast emerging as a cybersecurity hub in the Asia Pacific region for several reasons.

“Historically, Melbourne has attracted telecommunications, electronics and IT engineering and manufacturing organisations like Telstra, and its predecessor Telecom Australia, which has always been based in Victoria. Over the years Victoria’s electronics and hardware manufacturers have successfully migrated from old-world electro-mechanical items to new-world digital electronics products such as high-end data security and communications equipment,’’ says Galbally.

“Because Melbourne has always had a leading technical and engineering academic and training sector, supported by industry and the Victorian Government, several universities continue to produce world-class technical graduates. Consequently, it has developed a world-class community of electronics and software engineers and provides us with access to other highly skilled organisations and people”.

“The Victorian Government is very supportive in numerous ways with a clear focus on export success. In recent years we have participated in the Victorian government’s trade missions to Japan, Israel and US, and found them very profitable and valuable.

“All this makes Melbourne an ideal base for a company such as ours.’’

International order book

Senetas’ state-of-the-art hardware enables networks to transmit data encrypted to certified high-assurance level at up to 100Gbps a second with near zero latency. They are in demand by governments, large corporations and global cloud and data centre service providers.

“Apart from the US defense forces and other US government agencies, our customers include several Australian government agencies and regulatory authorities,’’ says Galbally.

“We are currently assisting an Asian government on a complete defence solution and have recently received an order from one of the world’s biggest oil producers to protect its oil and gas rig control systems. These highlight the roles of data security beyond personal information security alone.’’

Code for success

Forticode is a Melbourne cyber-security start-up on a rapid growth trajectory, and founder Tony Smales says he is grateful for the city’s strong and culturally diverse tech community.

“We have just secured a A$2.5 million investment, so we’re currently expanding our team from 10 to 20, and we expect that expansion to continue throughout the year,’’ says Smales.

“But we’ve had no issues finding the right staff in Melbourne – there are a lot of talented, passionate people here.’’

Forticode is a B2B provider of managed authentication software for staff and end users.

Top-level security

“Forticode gives you control of all your electronic credentials via one app, rather than having them copied and distributed in dozens of different businesses and locations,’’ says Smales.

“Instead of a whole lot of disjointed usernames and passwords, you have just one that provides a top level of security. Users needn’t understand the technology, it becomes a convenience thing for them while maintaining the highest levels of security.’’

Forticode came into existence over five years ago, although its latest product, Cipherise, is only three months old. Smales says Melbourne’s cultural diversity has been key to the company’s success.

“With a diverse group of people working together you get different perspectives on problems,’’ he says.

“I’m so proud of the team we’ve built, they have really taken ownership of the product. This is the third generation of our security technology, and there is almost none of my original code left, it has all been replaced by the team.’’

With five contracts for delivery in the first quarter of 2017 and the challenge of managing rapid growth; morphing from a pure tech firm into a sales and delivery-focused company Smales is wary of Forticode becoming a victim of its own success. He foresees, however, huge potential for long-term expansion.

“We’re just a small Melbourne startup, we need to get some runs on the board,’’ says Smales. “But the level of demand out there for this type of product is just amazing.’’