In an Australian first, a group of innovative, sovereign cyber companies collaborated to create a successful pilot of a fully online, collective cyber training program for the Australian Defence Force.
Australian businesses Cydarm, Elttam, Penten and Retrospect Labs, each with expertise in niche cyber technology, came together to tailor a solution for Defence on Fifth Domain’s cyber training platform.
The aim of the Accelerated Defence Cyber Training (ADCT) Program echoes the current need for remotely accessible training programs while also addressing the requirement to rapidly increase cyber skills across Defence and industry.
The fully online training program was conducted from Fifth Domain’s headquarters in Canberra, and was delivered remotely to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel across the country over a three-week time frame.
On the final day of the pilot, Major General Marcus Thompson, Head of Information Warfare Division, visited Fifth Domain’s office in within UNSW’s Launch Precinct to connect virtually with over 50 program trainees and congratulate the Australian consortium partners for their achievement.
“Building home-grown cyber capabilities is a team effort. In Defence, we’re developing our capabilities in an increasingly connected world – which extends to the battlefield. The collaboration of local SME’s to support the training progression of ADF cyber operators gives me great confidence that we’re on the right track. I commend our partners Fifth Domain, Penten, Cydarm, Elttam and Retrospect Labs for contributing to the acceleration of ADF cyber training,” said MAJGEN Thompson.
Michelle Price, AustCyber CEO, said this is a real-world demonstration of the strength of Australia’s cyber security ecosystem.
“Seeing five sovereign cyber businesses come together to provide a virtual training platform for Defence is a great example of the strong cyber security sector in Australia and shows that Australian cyber businesses can provide the solutions Defence needs. A strong domestic cyber security sector is critical for Australia’s competitiveness and reputation as a trusted place to do business,” Price explained.
Cydarm, a Melbourne-based business, deployed its case management platform and dashboard as a command and control system to coordinate team activities and provide oversight for the mentors. This enabled trainees in the cybersecurity operations teams to collaborate on responding to incidents while the mentors continually assessed their progress.
Vaughan Shanks, CEO of Cydarm Technologies, said he is proud to be counted among the growing number of sovereign Australian cyber security companies and grateful for the support of the ADF and its partners.
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"Developing home-grown expertise is a key objective of the Australian government as it focuses on building sovereign cyber capability to generate jobs, defend Australia and export these solutions to the Asia-Pacific region and around the world," said Shanks.
Elttam, an independent Australian security company that specialises in high-quality offensive and defensive security services, played the role of cyber threat actors for the ADF trainees.
Matt Jones, director and co-founder of Elttam, said, “We were proud to tailor realistic adversarial scenarios for Defence based on industry experience. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the partnering Australian companies as part of the ADCT Program.”
Fifth Domain, the training project lead and provider of the platform, is a leading Australian specialist cyber operations workforce development and management development company based in Canberra.
Matt Wilcox, CEO of Fifth Domain, commented, “We are proud to be leading this sovereign capability to deliver this unique solution for Defence. Fifth Domain’s cyber ranges benefit by being able to integrate niche technologies from our partners to provide Defence the best of breed Australian cyber innovation. And within the context of COVID-19 limitations, the sovereign, remotely accessible platform enables Defence to overcome travel and supply chain challenges to successfully achieve this goal.”
Penten, a Canberra-based cyber technology company, enjoyed the challenge of integrating its unique AI generated content and user behaviour on Fifth Domain’s cyber training platform.
Ben Whitham, founder and director of Penten, said this is another example of sovereign capability and what can be achieved through collaboration.
“Although this is only the first step working together, the combined solution of additional realism and automation will enhance the training outcomes, reduce the time taken to create the environments and improve the repeatability,” said Whitham.
Retrospect Labs is building a cyber security exercise platform that takes the burden out of conducting cyber security exercises. The platform makes exercises easy to design, execute, and evaluate, so that organisations can continually practice - and perfect - their response to any cyber incident.
Jason Pang, CEO of Retrospect Labs, said he is immensely proud to partner with fellow Australian cyber security companies to deliver a leading, world-class experience for ADF personnel.
“What we did, together, showcases the awesome home-grown talent boutique Australian companies have to offer, and their ability to work so closely together in a way that rivals, and in many ways outshines, the offerings of many established, traditional cyber firms,” said Pang.
Delivery of this program closely aligns with Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020, released in early August 2020, which commits $1.67 billion investment over 10 years, and outlines a range of initiatives including the growth of the country’s cyber skills pipeline as one of its key recommendations.