This interview with Michelle Price, Chief Executive Officer of AustCyber and Diane Miller, Director, Global Cyber Education & Workforce Initiatives for Northrop Grumman provides insight into the CyberTaipan Finals Competition held in Canberra on 16 March 2019 and the program’s link to the USA, UK and Saudi Arabia.
Recorded on Saturday, 16 March at the Canberra Institute of Technology. MySecurity Media attended CyberTaipan courtesy of AustCyber.
Saturday, March 16, 2019 was a unique and eventful day for cyber security in the nation’s capital, with two events appropriately linked by AustCyber, the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (ACSGN).
BSidesCanberra, into its fourth year, welcomed well over 2,000 delegates from the Infosec community to delve and dive into the dark arts of hacking, breaking and picking at the National Convention Centre. The event was reportedly enlivened with a fire evacuation thanks to a smouldering lithium battery, clearly a sign that the machines were being put to the test. Whilst across the road, at the Canberra Institute of Technology, a national finals pilot program for Australia’s first CyberTaipan competition was underway, with support from some of Australia’s largest enterprises, Northrop Grumman, Blackberry, PwC Australia and Woodside Energy.
Both events were fully supported by AustCyber, with CyberTaipan delivering a major ‘workforce development pipeline’ project for the ACSGN. The winning team, TSS or The Southport School, took a strong and early lead, and were announced as winners at an awards dinner ceremony at Parliament House that evening. The Canberra Festival fireworks was a timely conclusion and celebration to an eventful day.
CyberTaipan, Australia’s first such competition, follows that of the CyberPatriot program in the US, now in its eleventh year and CyberCenturian (UK) and CyberArabia (Saudi Arabia) in their fifth years. Facilitated by the US Airforce Association, ten teams from across the east coast of Australia were set through their paces over 4 hours. The task was to protect and defend a corporate network for a local government organisation and undertake a series of challenges along the way. In a sense, these talented high school students were learning to defend against those 2,000+ hackers from across the road at the NCC. Indeed, there is little doubt that the CyberTaipans will soon make their way to one or more of the BSides events being annually held around Australia.
Whilst starting on a relatively small scale in 2009, CyberPatriot has grown to involve 6,387 teams from across the USA in 2019. Though the CyberPatriot program isn’t just the beginning. The USA program actually starts for many students with ‘Sarah the Cyber Hero’, created as a pre-reader book for preschools and grandparents, a cyber security and online safety program throughout the 5 -11 years and week-long summer cyber camps for 12-18 year-olds. All these are designed to complement and gap fill the normal curriculum in the classroom.
A good example of how CyberTaipan connects and inspires was Josie and Lang, aka Team Sparkling Stars, the only all girls team. Speaking at Parliament House, each were proudly pleased with their day’s effort. “We did better than we thought”, said Josie. Their Teacher and Coach, Matthew Phillips confirmed the two were introduced to each other via CyberTaipan and their respective interests from their Year 11 and Year 12 computer programming class. Josie, now at the Australian National University in her first year of Engineering and IT, and Lang, contemplating a degree next year in computer science or physics, still presented as normal teenage girls. Apart from doing well, when asked what was the stand out for the day? Lang was quick to reply, “Getting up at 8:00am on a Saturday!” A challenge for any teenager.
Diane Miller, Director, Global Cyber Education & Workforce Initiatives for Northrop Grumman was clear in her message to the pilot program finalists during her awards ceremony presentation. Diane outlined the cyber defence skills that are taught and nurtured in the program, designed to develop successful professionals in the cyber security world. Highlighting contemporary cybersecurity skills, Diane emphasised the need is much more than just technical skills. Communication, oral and written, is needed to convince executives of the risk, as well as, communicating what has occurred with written trouble reports and forensic reports. They also need to collaborate and work within a multi disciplined team. Importantly, diversity is clearly a contributor to problem solving, yet this then requires leadership as a critical attribute to leading a diverse team. All this needs to be supported with intellectual curiosity and having tenacity to resolve problems through to a successful resolution, as well as acting with integrity in handling sensitive data and acting ethically. CyberTaipan develops all of these skills and reinforces the need for individual skills, producing well rounded students and developing a job ready cyber workforce. Indeed, 92% of students from CyberPatriot end up in roles within cybersecurity and computer science, Diane confirmed.
In addition to Northrop Grumman’s anchor support, as an 80,000 person, global employer, CyberTaipan also had big industry support with Blackberry, PwC and Woodside Energy. Rachel Brennan, Manager Cyber Capabilities and Threat Intelligence with Woodside Energy wisely told the students that as a cyber security professional, no two days are the same. Rachel’s role involves the responsibility of up-skilling the entire Woodside Energy workforce, as well red teaming, policy development and incident response. David Nicol, managing director of Blackberry Australia highlighted the needs of business is different based on size and sector, however cybersecurity challenges are often aligned to awareness, policy and technical capability. PwC Australia’s Steve Ingram laid out the endless options open to the CyberTaipan finalists, contrasting a career in cybersecurity to that of the London underground – extensive and interconnected.
Yet despite a passionately inspiring close by Michelle Price, AustCyber’s CEO, the highlight of the evening was AustCyber’s Program Director for National Workforce Development, Owen Pierce, as the awards dinner MC. Owen was able to break it right down for all and connect with these young people at their level – with Dad jokes! “Why is Beef Stew not a good password?” Owen asked. “Coz it’s not just not Stroganoff.” I laughed Owen!
Stay tuned for CyberTaipan 2020. Not only is an announcement anticipated later in the year but 2020 may hold the prospect for an International competition. Definitely one to get prepared for and recommend any Australian employer, put these and future CyberTaipan finalists down on a LOTBKF list and review on future resumes – these kids will be in the highest demand.
There were 38 students, aged 12 – 18 years, from across the country competing in the pilot National Finals. The Southport School from the Gold Coast, Queensland took home the prestigious title as the winning team, whilst Lake Tuggeranong College ACT’s team took second place, and Victoria-based Australian Air Force Cadets, 415 Squadron came third. Well done to all! #Gameon #CyberTaipan