Government minister says facility will serve as ‘translator’ between business, government, and security sectors

The Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre will boost the country's security defenses

A new cybersecurity facility is set to open in Australia on July 1, with the aim of boosting the country’s threat response capabilities.

Established with an A$8.9 million ($6.1 million) investment from the South Australian government, the non-profit Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre (A3C) is sited in the ‘Lot Fourteen’ innovation district in Adelaide.

The plan is to develop the country’s future cyber workforce and build out the nation’s security awareness and capability, with a focus on management boards, small- to medium-sized enterprises, and government.

As detailed in the A3C prospectus (PDF), the center will also host hardware and software testing facilities.

“A3C raises the awareness for business and acts as the translator between business, government, research, training providers, and cyber specialists within the ecosystem,” South Australia’s minister for innovation and skills, David Pisoni, tells The Daily Swig.

“This capability will create a nation-leading cyber ecosystem in Australia that contributes to economic growth through new skills, new enterprises, new customers, and new investment.”

Cyber Launchpad

A key element of A3C, says Pisoni, will be the Cyber Launchpad, which will consist of a Cyber Academy and a Cyber Test Range.

The Cyber Academy will develop its own training courses, as well as using existing training material, and will be open to schools, tech staff, and company executives.

Meanwhile, the Cyber Test Range will offer hardware and software testing in a secure environment, with a mix of internet-facing and isolated networks on which Australian cyber start-ups can showcase their tools.

“It will provide access to equipment, tools and operators that that many companies are not able to create within their businesses,” says Pisoni.

“There’s also capability for SMEs, researchers, and government to collaborate, allowing cybersecurity devices, software, and techniques to be introduced into the environment for certification or standards-based testing, helping them get their product into global markets.”

Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre set to open with focus on security testing, training, teamworkA3C will provide access to training and security intelligence

Growth environment

South Australia offers an ideal growth environment for cyber businesses, says Pisoni, thanks to a strong track record in machine learning and artificial intelligence, along with trustworthy systems, local cyber capability, and a proactive government.

“Proximity to the increasingly digital Indo-Pacific region adds to South Australia’s importance to the international cyber community,” he adds.

“The A3C will be able to develop a cyber workforce for global businesses that can establish cyber teams in South Australia to take advantage of our world class research, education, market reach, and lower cost environment.”

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The opening is timely: according to the A3C, advanced persistent threat (APT) actors have been actively targeting health sector organizations and medical research facilities during the Covid-19 crisis, sometimes in a bid to steal research data into vaccines and epidemiology.

And this is borne out by a survey released last month by Avast, which showed a 10% increase in ransomware attacks, partly fueled by a rise in healthcare attacks, in Australia during March and April, compared with the two previous months.

One major trend driving this increase is large-scale attacks targeting end users and smaller manufacturing and service businesses.

Ransomware is usually spread through emails, exploit kits, or as part of illegal software, says the Avast team, and the most common strains are Phobos, CrySiS, or STOP.

Another trend is attacks aimed at large companies or institutions from the health, transport, and education sectors.

“We have seen a significant growth of this type of attack, especially in the last year and a half, which has accelerated significantly during the pandemic,” says Avast malware researcher Jakub Kroustek.

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