Telstra partners with five universities for cyber, data, networking skills development

The partnerships come soon after a Malwarebytes Labs report stating that the education sector is increasingly becoming the victim of trojan, adware, and backdoor attacks.

Telstra is attempting to take action against the looming skills shortage in Australia, with CEO Andy Penn saying his company has made plans to build the country's technology talent and "close the gap" between the demand and supply of highly-skilled professionals.

To do this, Australia's incumbent telco has signed separate two-year memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with five local universities: the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the University of Sydney, and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

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Telstra said the partnerships will see all parties jointly develop the skills and capabilities that students would require for the future of work, such as network and software engineering, cybersecurity, and data analytics.

"Telstra is committed to working with education institutions, industry partners, and government to build a bigger pipeline of technology graduates in Australia, for the overall benefit of the nation," Penn said.

"Today, we cannot find enough of the skills we need in Australia on the scale we need them. This is not a challenge unique to Telstra, with an estimated shortfall of 60,000 skilled ICT workers in Australia over the next five years."

Penn said by investing time, money, and energy into these partnerships, his company aims to provide clarity on the skills needed, as well as create more opportunities for students to develop them.

"Together with universities, we will boost the supply of diverse technology graduates for our own workforce, and the nation," Penn continued.

Telstra said the partnerships will look at ways to build awareness around, and curiosity in, technology careers, in addition to taking steps to spark interest from students before they reach university, including through the creation of high school student outreach programs.

The telco is also co-creating enterprise technology education for its existing employees as part of its wider training strategy. For a cost of around AU$25 million in FY20, Telstra said it expects 10% of its workforce to develop a new skill Telstra has identified that it requires.

Read more: Global cybersecurity workforce gap hits 3m, APAC feels the biggest pinch (TechRepublic)  

Telstra's announcement to partner with education institutions comes soon after Malwarebytes revealed that the sector is increasingly becoming the victim of trojan, adware, and backdoor attacks.

The findings come from a report by its Malwarebytes Labs division, which says that as school and university networks often lack strong protection, due to limited budgets and resources, connected devices remain a favoured point of entry for hackers as a consequence.

According to Malwarebytes, education was the top industry for adware compromises and trojan detections in 2018, and second on the list of verticals most commonly hit with ransomware. 

"This trend continued in the first half of 2019 and is likely to continue to remain a threat for educational institutions in years to come," Malwarebytes reported.

Malwarebytes Labs also detected that, globally, .edu domain email addresses were increasingly being used on a wide array of other networks, thereby increasing the risk of infection and harm to both the device and the institution's network when the device is brought back on campus.

"The digitisation of the Australian education industry, and the rise of [learning management systems] and eLearning platforms, represent fantastic opportunities for schools, universities, and students. But this also means more devices, both institutional-owned and student-owned, connect to the network," Malwarebytes Asia Pacific area vice president and managing director Jeff Hurmuses said.

"Students use an increasing number of devices -- on campus, at home, and on the go -- connecting endpoints to both secure and unknown networks. This increases the risks of devices being infected, putting the institution's corporate network and the student's personal data at a greater risk of being compromised".

Malwarebytes Labs said schools and universities across Australia need to "brace themselves" for a continuing onslaught of cyberattacks.

"Cybercriminals are opportunistic: The more devices connected to an education institution's network, the more data that is generated and therefore the more tempting the attack", Hurmuses continued.

"The Australian education sector often puts cybersecurity as a secondary item on their list of priorities, mostly due to limited budgets, lack of internal cybersecurity skills and outdated infrastructure. However, institutions need to understand that protecting endpoints is of utmost importance." 

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