Australia isn't buying local cyber and the rest of the world might soon follow

Early Stage technology investor and partner at Amadeus Capital, Alex van Someren, has warned the encryption-busting legislation hasn't made Australia an attractive place to buy cyber from.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Organisations wanting to get off the ground in Australia have long battled with the tyranny of distance when selling on the global stage, but they have closed the gap over recent years, thanks to that little thing called the internet and the ability to transact through a cable.

Lucky for them, especially since Australia isn't overly interested in buying Australian when it comes to cybersecurity, Alex van Someren, Early Stage technology investor and partner at Amadeus Capital, told the AustCyber AllStars program at the Sydney Joint Cyber Security Centre on Monday.

"Australian buyers are unwilling to buy Australian technology ... that's a crying shame, that's a real missed opportunity in terms of supporting local creativity, and it's particularly ironic because the impression that I get in the rest of the world is the respect that people have for Australian engineering and the quality of what's actually produced is very high indeed," he said.

"It's actually the opposite of the way that people are behaving locally.

"It just seems crazy that [people are] not really exploiting the potential in Australia and the message I get from outside Australia is completely different."

However, Australian cyber organisations are now dealing with yet another roadblock to having their product consumed overseas and as van Someren highlighted, it's Canberra that is having a global influence over how Australian cyber is portrayed.

In July 2017, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his plan to develop legislation that allows access to encrypted communications for law enforcement.

That plan has since emerged as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018.

Read more: What's actually in Australia's encryption laws? Everything you need to know

"If you set yourselves up as the place least welcoming to cybersecurity practitioners in the world, it's definitely going to make it harder to build great cybersecurity businesses -- sorry," van Someren said of the rushed legislation.

The Bill, coupled with the recent government email breach, certainly hasn't helped Australia sell itself to the rest of the world, either.

The nation's political parties were hit in an online attack last month that forced a password reset of all Australian Parliament House network users, including politicians and all of their staffers.

"It has become clear that the local infrastructure of politicians email was not up to the mark and that is a genuine embarrassment because it is being used as an example that sophistication isn't available [to Australian operations] -- everybody in the world has breaches," he said of the breach.

According to van Someren, both of these cyber-related incidents have made it harder for the lives of those trying to be in business in cybersecurity.

"It's kind of unhelpful that your politicians decide you should have an unusually challenging legislative background to cybersecurity," he added. "I don't think it means investors will run away screaming ... but many other places don't have similar challenges."

Having more cyber companies locally could help an industry thrive, but one of the problems facing the emergence of more technology firms, echoed by CSIRO and government bodies ad nauseam, is that Australia isn't that good at converting inventions and research into a product or an industry.

"Here's the challenge: Building businesses isn't the same as building science projects," van Someren added.


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