Wednesday, 09 May 2018 11:29

IT firms welcome Budget cyber security spend


Technology firms have welcomed the Coalition Government's Budget measures in the field of cyber security, but say that more clarity on the use of different technologies would have been better. Some have sought government aid to make the networks of small businesses secure.

Andy Berry, managing director of Ricoh Australia, said: “The government has made some significant investments in IT and research.

"However, when it comes to selecting the technologies that underpin business activity, it’s difficult to know where investments should be made that will deliver the best returns over time. Should you shift everything to a cloud platform? How can you improve collaboration between staff? What platform should you use to digitise internal workflows?

"Indeed, the right digital platform can help to streamline many of the processes already in place within a business as well as support the new lines of collaboration that will be necessary. It can allow workflows to be standardised and the automation of many manual processes. This, in turn, can free up the senior managers to focus on more value-added activities.

"The government’s focus on investment in technology is to be commended but businesses will individually need to consider the human factor. After all, failure to engage employees in an age of digital disruption will delay achievement of business goals and may jettison them altogether.”

Aura Information Security country manager Michael Warnock said the announcement of continuing investment in cyber security was a positive step for businesses, and the country as a whole.

"By placing a focus on security the government acknowledges that the risk of cyber attacks is very real and we believe this serves as a timely reminder that it’s no longer viable for businesses to take a laissez faire approach to security," he said.

"The reality is, the number of cyber attacks targeting Australian businesses is increasing at a rapid rate. This is supported by the constant examples of high-profile security breaches that have dominated news headlines recently.

"What is most alarming, however, is that when it comes to basic security hygiene, too many businesses are still failing. What’s needed now is a co-ordinated effort from the wider business community to ensure they are holding up their end of the bargain. Risk versus gain needs to be seriously considered in all IT deployments and there needs to be constant dialogue around what we can, or should, be doing better."

Mark Perry, the Asia Pacific chief technology officer for Ping Identity, said he was excited by the announcement that $65 million would be injected into the local IT industry to encourage a modern, secure and user-centric data industry.

"On the back of the Productivity Commission's inquiry into Data Availability and Use, and the funding of an Australian Open Banking initiative in the 2018 Budget, Ping is encouraged that the identity security concepts and open standards we have been championing will help to deliver these initiatives in Australia," he said.

"Based on Ping's experience as a technology supplier for the UK Open Banking program... we will continue to take a leadership position in the Australian industry to assist in the design and delivery of an Open Data regime that puts the consumer first, ensuring security and privacy, while enabling a raft of innovation for companies and application developers.

“The Australian Government is to be congratulated for encouraging this initiative and Ping looks forward to the next stage of this program.”

Mark Sinclair, ANZ regional director of WatchGuard Technologies, was also happy about the cyber security spend.

"The investment announced last night also reinforces last year’s budget commitment in its Cyber Security Small Business Program to provide $2100 co-funding for small businesses to have their cyber security tested," he said.

"However, what’s really needed is for this specific program to actually get started. Given that most Australians today work in small businesses, the government should also take it a step further and assist small businesses with the cost of making their networks more secure.

"Testing is one thing, but remediation of any security vulnerabilities will often cost a lot more. Given the growing complexity and distribution of networks, small businesses often can’t afford the complete and appropriate security solutions that large enterprises are investing in today.”

Phil Kernick, chief executive of CQR Consulting, was of the opinion that the government had taken the right course of action by continuing to fund cyber security programs in the budget.

"However, as cyber security becomes an increasingly important issue for Australian businesses, many are finding themselves hamstrung by a lack of qualified staff," he said. "Skilled security experts are proving hard to find and the rising salary expectations resulting from this scarcity can put them out of reach for small- and mid-sized businesses where the majority of Australians work.

"For universities and TAFEs to make the investments needed to establish courses of this type, they must be convinced that there is demand from both students and prospective employers. This is where the federal government can play a role, by bringing all parties together and creating an understanding of the benefits that will result from such an initiative."

Kernick stressed that the government also needed to work more broadly to drive understanding of the situation and the best strategies and frameworks for fixing it.

Zscaler vice-president for Asia Pacific and Japan, Scott Robertson, urged a new approach to address the mounting security issues that businesses and the government face.

"Today’s threats are more complex and attack the user when they’re at their weakest - outside the network. At the same time we don’t work the same way we used to - we work remotely, access data and applications that reside off premise and to achieve this security architecture must change,” he said.

Simon Howe, APAC sales director of LogRhythm, said: "As future cyber warfare will be waged between machines, it is critical to invest in technologies such as AI. It is also important to nurture an environment where the best talents and ideas can be developed. As can be seen from recent incidents, data protection should also be top of mind and clear guidelines are needed for the public agencies not within the purview of the Mandatory Breach Disclosure regulations.”

Brendan Maree, vice-president Asia Pacific Region, 8x8, said: "The focus on IT investment in support of ongoing digital transformation and STEM skills development by the government is certainly encouraging and comes at a time when the world is becoming increasingly digitally connected.

"Indeed, the cloud has become a catalyst for small business growth, allowing organisations to innovate freely, carve out new markets, and disrupt the status quo. Industry sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, and urban planning have been reimagined and redefined by the cloud.

"In order to continue to reap these opportunities, today’s enterprises must not only develop new cloud-ready tools, but also put digital at the centre of their businesses. While it’s good to see the government take notice of digital disruption, Australian businesses will increasingly need to compete based on technology-enabled value.”

Jamie Davidson, ANZ country manager, JAMF, said it was encouraging to see the continued government investment in cyber security.

"This news comes at a time when organisations and individuals are increasingly focused on their digital identities and have a heightened quest for robust privacy," he said.

"At the same time, businesses are now operating in an increasingly regulated environment with the new mandatory data breach notification laws in place. Money alone won’t keep data safe, but the government investment should encourage businesses to ensure that cyber risk becomes part of their overall risk management strategy."

Peter O’Connor, the vice-president of Sales Asia Pacific for Snowflake Computing, said the investment in digital services would benefit public sector agencies to realise operational cost savings and gain efficiencies by reaping the benefits that cloud services provision now provides.

"However, organisational structure, departmental interactions, workflows and delivery channels must all be reviewed," he said. "Many will also need to be re-engineered or even replaced. Simply throwing money at digital service provision, streamlining or automating current public sector services or supporting outmoded work practices will achieve nothing.

"Indeed, just as in private enterprises, the government will need to constantly examine systems and workflows to ensure that they remain appropriate and effective as external conditions evolve.”

Jacqui Nelson, managing director, Dekko Secure, said the government had shown its continued support of Australian tech companies focusing on cyber security solutions and taking their tech to the global market at the recent Austrade and AustCyber mission to the US.

"As we see it though, better education and understanding about the complexity and the real risk companies face daily around data breaches is not fully understood," she said. "There is still a large level of complacency among Australian companies and this is because there isn’t a comprehensive understanding of how catastrophic a data breach can be for them, especially in the SMB sector."

Nigel Mendonca, country manager, Australia and New Zealand, Tableau, said: "The core of any transformation in today’s digital era requires being nimble and making quick decisions. The vast amounts of data available today coupled with rapid advances in analytics solutions and machine learning, means that many businesses are already realising value from their data through better informed decisions.

"However, the challenge in Australia for the past few years has been the shortage of sufficiently skilled workers who can understand the business benefits that a data strategy can deliver. This is where empowering everyone with data and initiatives such as the funding programs to upskill the workforce introduced by the Australian Government becomes imperative so that businesses are still able to harness the value of data."

Giovanni Polizzi, energy solutions manager, Indra, said: "With an ever rising price for energy supply to homes and business, we would have expected a much higher commitment to increasing the penetration of renewables for households and for commercial and industrial customers.

"Keeping an eye on promoting investments in technology for power networks would have also been desirable, as these organisations should avoid costly network infrastructure augmentation by digitising their operations and harnessing the opportunities offered by demand response and distributed renewable generation. Encouraging a potentially cheap energy such as renewable, is in our opinion, the way to go for a stable energy price containment.”

Tribal Group Asia Pacific managing director Peter Croft welcomed the increase in research funding, "specifically Melbourne University’s Synchrotron and the Marine Observing system at the Unit of Tasmania under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy".

"We also welcome the focus on regional programs to support regional universities and the continuation of funding for research block grants and the commitment by the Federal Government to improving the systems to ensure compliance with the VET (vocational education and training) Student Loans program.

“However, we are disappointed that there has been no new commitment of funding for the VET sector, although we recognise the continuation of the Skilling Australians Fund arrangements. We encourage the federal and state governments to do more to work collaboratively to make the National Partnership Program work.

"So far, none of the $1.5 billion commitment has been taken up, though it is a good sign that the federal government has committed an additional $50 million for any state which signs on to the program by 7 June.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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