Melbourne on the cybersecurity frontline

Melbourne is fast emerging as a world leader in cybersecurity. We talk with CyberGym CEO Ofir Hason, whose company set up its global headquarters here last year, creating jobs and helping Victorian businesses fight cybercrime.

Cybercrime costs the national economy around $17 billion each year and the global cybersecurity market is tipped to swell to $222 billion by 2020. Melbourne is already securing a generous wedge of that cybersecurity business, asserting itself as a major player globally.

The Victorian Government, for instance, has signed agreements to work with Oxford University’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre, Tel Aviv University and the biggest defence state in the US – the Commonwealth of Virginia. Added to that, Melbourne is home to the cybersecurity teams of three of Australia’s four major banks, Telstra, the National Broadband Network and BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.

Backed by the Victorian Government, Melbourne’s Docklands precinct is home to the largest cybersecurity cluster in Australia. One firm that became an integral part of that collective late last year is Israel’s CyberGym, which provides hands-on training to businesses in dealing with cyberattacks.

Their type of training is in hot demand as more organisations realise that adequate cyber protection is more than simply putting up a new firewall or installing anti-virus software. Indeed, cyberattacks at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony in Pyeonchang (where internet and television services went down) and on firms such as Google and Facebook have pushed the cybercrime issue further into the spotlight.

A young adult man folds his arms, wearing a suit whilst smiling at the cameraCyberGym has plenty of skin in the game when it comes to cybersecurity. It’s a joint venture of the Israel Electric Corporation, a $9.9 billion company that faces daily cyberattacks (up to 6000 network events were recorded per second when it was founded in 2013), and Cyber Control, a cybersecurity consultancy using hackers from the Israel Defence Forces’ 8200 cyberintelligence unit and veterans of the Israeli National Security Authority.

The company already have branches in Israel, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and planned office openings for North America, Ireland and Asia. And although it considered other sites in Australia and Asia, Docklands came out on top as the best fit for their global headquarters, says CyberGym’s founder and CEO, Ofir Hason, a former head of cybersecurity for Israel’s Shin Bet security service.

“Docklands is home to some of the Asia Pacific’s best and brightest experts in cybersecurity, with the Cyber Security Growth Centre, Oceania Cyber Security Centre, the CSIRO’s Data61 research centre, and now CyberGym’s World Cyber Warfare Arena all choosing to base their head offices here,” he notes.

“We see ourselves as being key to Victorian organisations (including corporate, government, and academic entities) to develop and refine their skills in, and knowledge of, cybersecurity and we’ll also look to partner with local service providers. There are already a number of places in Melbourne that provide a very competent theoretical base of cybersecurity knowledge, however, until that knowledge is tested in a real environment, then those skills remain theoretical. We’re committed to working with Victorian cyberexperts to make them a community of battle-hardened cyberwarriors, ready to respond to anything the hackers of the world throw at us.”

Which can be an uphill battle, in anyone’s language. How can an organisation be attack ready? “Cyberattacks are far from a new thing, however, the reporting of attacks, either through mandatory breach legislation or through less controlled news sources, is becoming more widespread,” replies Hason. “Companies need to demonstrate to investors, customers and staff that they take the threats seriously, they have a plan, and they understand the risks. Furthermore, cybersecurity is not just a technology problem – people and processes are just as important, and in 2018 we expect to see much more investment by companies to ensure that they have the right skills, and they know how to use the technology they’ve invested so heavily in over the past years.”

Australia is as likely to suffer a breach as other place, cautions CyberGym’s APAC Director Adam Neale: “Australia has grown up as an ‘island nation’, geographically far from most of the world’s historical threats, however in the cyberworld, we’re as close as every other country. Many of our largest organisations have already been attacked, and have learnt the hard way that they needed to be better prepared.

“Victorian-based businesses perhaps are best able to use our Docklands arena in an ongoing way – with different teams able to easily come in to train on new or emerging cyberthreats, and to continue to refine their internal processes and procedures. Also, over time the pool of trained cyber experts who have genuine hands-on experiences combating active threats will be greatly augmented by graduates of the arena.”

“We’re building a team at Docklands including cybersecurity trainers, mentors, ethical hackers, cyberforensics specialists and incident response teams. Many of these we will hire locally, and then we’ll have them spend time in our various locations around the globe, including Israel, to get first-hand experience in some of the most attacked environments in the world, so that they come back to Victoria with battle-hardened experience to share with the local market.”

Ofir Hason’s best advice for global businesses seeking to establish a base in Melbourne:

“Reach out to the Victorian Government – there’s a terrific team in the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources who have great expertise and experience in helping global companies develop a business case to establish a base in Melbourne, and then find the right local connections to get the new local business up-and-running as quickly as possible.”