Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Cybersecurity in an IoT and Mobile World

​Cyber Security Growth Network wants the world to buy Australian

The Cyber Security Growth Network's CEO wants to make it easier for Australian cyber firms to enter international markets without having to relocate.

Less than six months into his new role, the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network's CEO Craig Davies is on a mission to ramp up the success of Australian-born cyber talent.

Davies, who was previously the head of security for Australian startup darling Atlassian, wants to see a future where cybersecurity firms in Australia can "thrive and grow".

"For an Australian firm, what happens for them when they start to establish and gain some traction is they get underway, but because of the way our system works and what our community thinks, they end up having to transform themselves and evolve to a new location. Then we start buying from them," he said, speaking at the Emerging Cyber Threats Summit in Sydney on Wednesday.

"We've got a whole bunch of companies that have had to go overseas to be successful and then we see them as legitimate players -- we need to stop this practice."

According to Davies, the main driver is the challenge Australia has in building a sovereign capability to defend against attacks that may be uniquely Australian.

"We want Australian firms to expand into every market, but the current system requires them to move so we lose the people and we lose the IP," Davies told ZDNet.

Davies and his team are working with a number of government departments on sorting out the logistics on how the stifling system can be modified to make it easier for an Australian firm to establish itself in a foreign market, but still remain uniquely Australian.

"We don't want firms to stop going where the market is; they need to, but currently the system is set up that they have to leave the country to be successful and we want to stop that," he added.

"We won't be successful going after just Australians; you need to expand into those foreign markets but the current journey, it's a little bit crap."

Davies said Australia is one of the leading countries for cybersecurity research and one of the most quoted anywhere in the world. However, somewhere along the way, Davies said the nation forgot to build an industry around that.

"Australia has a reputation as a trusted place to do business and for Australian firms, particularly with things coming down the pipeline like the data breach legislation ... you want to work with firms who understand the uniqueness of that legislation here in Australia," he explained.

As touched on in the Growth Network's cyber plan that was laid out in a roadmap in April, another item high on Davies' agenda is to change the understanding of what collaboration means in Australia.

"Australia ranks 34th in the world for collaboration -- it's out of 35," Davies said. "For an Australian, collaboration seems to mean, 'let's go have a coffee' or generally a beer."

Davies said talking about the problems organisations are facing actually leads to better outcomes -- something he said is able to happen without breaching any laws.

The Cyber Security Growth Network was established in December, and in addition to Davies, its board comprises the former senior vice president and group executive for IBM Doug Elix; Data61 CEO Adrian Turner; Heather Ridout AO, a former long-term chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, and chair of numerous business and community organisations; and Mike Burgess, most recently chief information security officer of Telstra, and previously holding senior roles with the Australian Signals Directorate.

The federal government initially pledged AU$30 million through to 2019-20 in December 2015 as part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda to establish the Growth Network in a bid to grow and strengthen Australia's cybersecurity industry.

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