"If we get it right, Melbourne will be much more than the most liveable city in the world, it will be the most trusted city in the world," predicted Professor Iven Mareels, Dean of the Melbourne University School of Engineering and Club Melbourne Ambassador.
At the heart of this comment is the issue of cyber security and the confidence that we must have in our network systems and data to realise the full benefit of a connected world.
The University of Melbourne is one of two institutions chosen to lead the Federal Government’s efforts to build cyber security expertise, infrastructure and skills. Australia’s first Academic Centre of Cyber Security Excellence, to be headquartered in Melbourne, will pave the way forward building a considerable competitive advantage in engineering and computer sciences.
Our lives and our environment are now so deeply connected to communication networks and data. For example, emerging technologies such as driverless cars and smart implantables demand a much higher degree of confidence in cyber security to be a success. For when these high-trust technologies fail, the consequences can be more than losing data. They can be life threatening.
"We are far from a fully digital society – look at transport and health information networks, we still have a way to go," said Professor Mareels. "Not being the first mover to embrace cyber security measures is not necessarily a bad thing, but we need to get this right. We absolutely cannot afford to be left behind, as the consequences of systems failure on the individual and organisations is becoming more and more significant each day."
The Centre of Excellence needs people who are willing to think boldly and laterally. "The current paradigm of thinking about cyber security will not provide the solutions we will eventually need. Building skills while supporting creative and disruptive approaches to cyber security technologies, and the problem security failures raise, will be where Australia can lead," suggested Professor Mareels.
"Cyber security is an enabler, not a goal within itself. Its impact on every industry and every aspect of our lives is becoming more and more critical as time goes on," he said.
Cyber security is more of a human problem than a technology problem. Our population often misunderstands and underestimates the risk in sharing data, and our behaviours confirm this. The real threat of failure is often far closer than we think. In our quest to create and implement technology solutions we often forget about the human factor in this rapidly evolving STEM sector.
Professor Chris Leckie from the University of Melbourne’s School of Computing and Information Systems, and Deputy Director of the new Centre of Excellence said, "working closely with the Federal Cyber Security Growth Centre, which is the collective training and research agenda, will bring together expertise from the technical disciplines, law and the social sciences." The centre’s multidisciplinary foundation will draw upon all of the technology and humanities strengths available from within the research and industry partners.
The Academic Centre of Cyber Security Excellence presents a considerable research opportunity in Australia as well as an applied imperative inherent in the core objectives. The initiative is expected to attract further investment from overseas and major collaborative partners from industry and academia, fostering a pipeline of skills, new technology and infrastructure.
Professor Mareels proposed that the field of cyber security should ideally be a "background" industry. "If cyber security technologies are working well, no news will be good news."