The Commonwealth Government in Australia recently announced imminent changes to reporting obligations related to critical infrastructure security. The changes have been under consideration for some time and the subject of widespread consultation among owners and operators of 11 sectors which have been identified as high priority. Referred to as CISONS – or critical infrastructure and systems of national significance – these high priority infrastructure assets have the potential to cause enormous economic damage if they are breached. Self-reported losses from cyber-crime hit $33B in 2021.

One reason the government is accelerating the pace of change in this area is the rapid growth in cybersecurity attacks. Australian organisations have become a global target for cyberattacks from nation states, state-sponsored actors and transnational cybercrime syndicates. The frequency, scale and severity of attacks are intensifying, as is the sophistication and resourcing of attackers. The pandemic contributed to the 13% reported annual increase in several ways, including the high number of people working and learning from home.

Approximately a quarter of all cyber incidents reported to the Australian Cyber Security Centre during the 2020-21 reporting period were associated with Australia’s critical infrastructure or essential services. This means an essential service or critical infrastructure was attacked every 32 minutes.

A white paper published by our Cisco Australia and New Zealand team focuses on the technology and skills challenges related to securing critical infrastructure, rather than the regulatory requirements. The white paper was a collaboration between Cisco and academics from universities that form part of the National Industry Innovation Network (NIIN).

The network is the first line of defence for cybersecurity

Visibility and awareness are the first steps to preventing breaches and detecting them early. If you can’t see an attack, you can’t measure or counter it. Visibility is critical to understanding macro-level issues (such as insights delivered by Talos about global threat trends) through to specific tools that reveal applications running on the network such as Cyber Vision, Netflow/IPFIX and DNS. It is impossible to have absolute protection, but collecting telemetry for visibility and supporting detection and response is critical. Tools such as CX Cloud use telemetry, AI/ML-driven insights, use cases and contextual learning to help make better security decisions. The entire supply chain needs to be secured recognising that risks can accumulate and compound across a supply chain. Visibility is critical and organisations need to know who is in their supply chain – including cloud services providers – and how those suppliers protect themselves.

The Centre for Networks is a collaboration between Cisco and Curtin University with a major focus on the network as the first line of defence against cyberattacks. The Centre for Networks will continue to explore ways to make organisations more resilient and secure.

“As a university, we understand the need to protect sensitive data and make our systems and infrastructure more resilient to preserve business continuity. Software-defined, intuitive networks are a critical element of our cyber defence armory.”

–Gary Hale, Chief Security Officer, Curtin University

Skill shortages in cybersecurity present a major risk and opportunity for Australia

Australia faces a significant cybersecurity skills shortage. Around 60% of organisations in Australia and New Zealand find recruiting for cybersecurity talent either “difficult” or “very difficult” and forecasters predict a global cybersecurity workforce gap of 1.8 million by 2022, a 20% increase over forecasts made in 2015. Shortages are being experienced across the spectrum of cyber roles, from specialist engineers to blue tech jobs that are technology-intensive but do not require a degree.

Cisco’s Networking Academy program, which is a global program, has trained more than fifteen million students since 1997 by partnering with training providers and institutions. The curriculum has broadened beyond networking to include cyber security, industrial Internet of Things, entrepreneurship and IT essentials and Cisco has also co-developed micro-credentials with universities, recognising that workers need flexibility in the intensity of courses and mode of delivery.


A useful analogy in relation to cybersecurity is the brakes on a Formula One car. The brakes certainly do not power the car nor create velocity, but the braking performance of a vehicle is one of the primary determinants of lap times. The same is true of cybersecurity, where trust and confidence in cyber systems allow dynamic innovation and accelerates the pace of technology uptake.

To learn more, read our, “Securing Australia’s Critical Infrastructure” paper.


Reg Johnson

General Manager, Education

Cisco Australia and New Zealand