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The Commonwealth Bank and UNSW today announced a $1.6 million, five-year partnership to develop a centre of expertise for cyber security education and research aimed at boosting the nation’s paucity of expertise in quality security engineering expertise.

The Security Engineering Partnership (or SEC.EDU for short), announced today, will help build industry capacity to battle the rising menace of cyber intrusions, identify theft, malware attacks and a host of other online perils, and alleviate a critical shortage of cyber security skills available to Australian businesses.

In the last 12 months, the number of cyber security roles advertised in Australia has grown by more than 60%, according to research released today by online job market Seek. The research also showed that within the technology industry, cyber security roles are both the most difficult for employers to fill, and among the highest paid. 

“In today’s interconnected digital world, we’re only as strong as our weakest link. Commonwealth Bank recognises a shared responsibility to secure Australia’s digital economy, and we’re excited to help educate the next generation of cyber security experts,” said Ben Heyes, Chief Information Security and Trust Officer at the Commonwealth Bank.

“This investment will build on UNSW’s enviable record of producing some of the world’s best computer scientists by providing a complete cyber security curriculum that prepares students for the roles most in demand in the tech sector,” he said.

The Commonwealth Bank and the University of New South Wales have announced a $1.6 million, five-year partnership to develop a centre of expertise for cyber security education and research aimed at boosting the nation’s paucity of quality security engineering expertise.

Under the SEC.EDU partnership, UNSW and CommBank will build a Security Engineering Lab, which will become a centre of expertise for education and research in the area. It includes:

  • Create a new Security Engineering stream in UNSW’s computer science degree program with a comprehensive applied cyber security undergraduate curriculum. This will be published under creative commons licensing and made available as a massive open online course (MOOC);
  • A new Security Engineering Lab for hands-on teaching of security courses;
  • Recruitment of world-class staff; and
  • Support for new PhD research tackling internet security issues and for the tutoring of undergraduates.

“It’s estimated that there’s a shortage of a million security professionals around the world, and companies constantly struggle to hire people with up-to-date security skills,” said Richard Buckland, Associate Professor in computer security and cybercrime at UNSW, and head of the new Security Engineering Lab.

“This partnership will help drive the pipeline of expertise needed to support Australia’s growing digital economy,” he added. “But it will also build Australia's capability for teaching security engineering, establishing and sharing an up-to-date curriculum, and raising the bar for cyber security across the nation.”

Professor Maurice Pagnucco, Deputy Dean (Education) in Engineering and Head of the School of Computer Science and Engineering at UNSW, welcomed the partnership.

“With many of our commercial transactions going online – not to mention an increasing number of our social transactions – cyber security has become an issue of increasing importance and relevance to society,” Pagnucco said. “There is an increasing demand for cyber security professionals that are capable of dealing with the complex issues involved and industry is finding it difficult to find such people.

“UNSW is one of the leading institutions in cyber security education and research,” he added. “Our students win the domestic cyber security (‘Capture the flag’) competitions — placing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in this year’s Cyber Security Challenge, Australia’s national cyber security competition – and annually score highly in international competitions.

“This is a very welcome and outstanding partnership between CBA and UNSW that will help Australia face the cyber security challenges of the future,” Pagnucco said.

The annual Cyber Security Challenge (or CySCA) is a gruelling 24-hour national competition in which students are given 24-hours to complete a series of challenges that test their cyber penetration and forensic analysis skills. It is led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in partnership with the Department of Defence and businesses such as the Commonwealth Bank, HackLabs, Facebook, Telstra, Cisco and PwC. CySCA began in 2012, and this year more than 250 students took part.

For the third year in a row, UNSW engineering students claimed the top three positions in the competition, which this year ran between 12pm Wednesday 30 September 2015 and 12pm Thursday 1 October (AEST). The five teams of students from UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering came in first, second, third and fourth and 29th.