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After the Cyber Pandemic, What is Next?

by K. Vatsala Devi
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Simon Carabetta

In the annals of history, the year 2020 will go down as a disruptive year, when the Covid-19 pandemic almost brought the world to a standstill.

In a blink of an eye, with social and physical distancing in play, everyone around the globe became reliant on technology to see them through. Working from home has become the norm, lessons were taken offline to online, weddings, date nights and Friday night catch-ups with family, friends, and loved ones were done in the safety of our living rooms.

As stated in an article titled, 2020: The Year the COVID-19 Crisis Brought a Cyber Pandemic, ‘In a sense, cyberspace has stepped up to the challenges brought by COVID-19 in ways that did not (and could not) happen during the last major pandemic in 1918’.

Though technology in the current climate is a silver lining, our over-dependency has led to cyber pandemic – a situation where the number of cybercrimes, cyberattacks and data breaches has skyrocketed. GreyCampus stated that in a report published by Cybersecurity Ventures, it had predicted that the global cybercrime costs will reach $10.5 trillion USD by 2025. That is a staggering number.

With data at hand, it is apparent that the key to addressing the cyber pandemic lies in having a robust cyber security infrastructure and a society that is aware of the importance of cybersecurity and its importance. The catalyst to achieving an informed society is through education and awareness programmes that should take place from the formative years and continued throughout.

This seed of thought has led to AustCyber and Western Australian Innovation Hub to host the Cyber West Summit on the 24th and 25th June 2021 at the Pan Pacific Perth, Australia. The two-day Cyber West Summit themed “Cyber Enabled Industry” will have an mix of speakers from various industries and platforms who will address the growing concerns over increasing online criminal activities.

Simon Carabetta, Project and Engagement Coordinator at the WA AustCyber Innovation Hub said that this summit is the first-of-its-kind from Western Australia and on Cybersecurity related events.

“It’s the first real high level non-technical look at cybersecurity and how it enables our industry, enables our economy and protects our people. It is basically a discussion bringing together thought leaders from industry and the government as well as a lot of cutting-edge cyber security capabilities from WA and across Australia,” he said enthusiastically.  

The summit features 38 speakers and also many notable keynote speakers such as former Prime Minister, the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull AC, Michelle Price, CEO of AustCyber, and Tim Watts MP, Shadow Assistant Minister Cyber Security, and will focus on 6 main themes namely Critical Infrastructure, Law Enforcement, Defence, Health, Education, and Data Science.

Carabetta further added that the summit is extremely important for everybody particularly in the current climate with the spate of recent cyber security attacks targeting critical infrastructure, small medium enterprises, large corporations, and individuals.

“We looked at supply chain attacks, we looked at vulnerabilities being exploited around the globe, and not only are these attacks vectored on certain locations, but they also had geographical impacts across the globe,” he explained, while citing the recent incident where JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company was targeted by a sophisticated cyberattack.

“The recent JBS attack which was originated out of Brazil had an impact on North America and even in Australia where 11,000 employees and 47 processing units were affected by an attack happening on the other side of the globe,” Carabetta added.

Cybersecurity, Carabetta went on to add is absolutely everyone’s responsibility and one of the main takeaways he wants people to leave the Summit with is knowing that cybersecurity is not just an IT issue, and it should not be left to the IT department to sort out, but is everyone’s responsibility.

When asked about society’s awareness on cybersecurity issues as well as steps that are being taken to educate the people, Carabetta explained that in Australia, cybersecurity awareness training is being rolled out across a number of enterprises but is still just a compliance check.

“It is just that something everyone is doing without realizing or understanding why they should be doing it and that needs to change. I cannot stress enough how much there needs to be a cultural shift,” he said. He further stated that cybersecurity is something that cannot be eliminated.

“There is no silver bullet or one technical solution that can be applied. It is everyone’s responsibility, and it is really a human issue. What I would like to see particularly in Australia, is that they take an approach like what they had done to occupational health and safety. And taking that same approach and cultural change and apply it to cybersecurity across enterprises.”

What we need to do in Australia as a developed nation we need to understand how connected we are to the rest of the world in terms of supply chain but at the same time we need to start looking at our sovereign capabilities here in Australia and how important they are to Australian government agencies defense and corporate enterprise as well.

“The other thing I would really like to see is Australia taking a lead on the global scene and actually help out our neighbors in South East Asia and South Pacific and really be a rural leader in the region in terms of cybersecurity,” he enthused.

The Cyber West Summit is a physical event and would see an attendance of approximately 600 people over the two days. With proper SOPs in place and with physical distancing still in practice, Carabetta is confident the event would resonate with the participants that are mainly from Australia and New Zealand.

“As far as the summit is concerned, what I really want to do is showcase to the world just how capable Western Australia is in terms of its cyber sector and some of the amazing innovative products that we have here, homegrown in Perth. The audience are from all sectors of the industry and not just cybersecurity. We are seeing an influx of participants from the finance sector because the finance sector really gets it as they understand the risks so that is a step in the right direction,” he concluded.

The Cyber West Summit is a great opportunity for Australians to come together now and realize just how crucial CS is to protecting not just them as individuals but basically adopting it as a way of life.

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