As our physical and digital systems become increasingly integrated, cybersecurity is an issue that should be on the radar of all engineers, says Australia’s Head of Information Warfare.
“Cybersecurity and cyber resilience are cross-disciplinary challenges that require a truly cross-disciplinary response from the engineering profession,” Major General Marcus Thompson AM FIEAust CPEng told create.
“There are engineers working in cybersecurity, in cyber operations and on the cyber resilience of the government, of organisations within industry.
“Put all that together — engineers are working on the cyber resilience of the nation.”
As cyber engineering takes in such a broad cross section of engineers, Engineers Australia Board Director Major General Thompson saw the need to create a “professional home” for those with expertise and interest in the subject.
The result is Engineers Australia’s new Cyber Engineering Community of Practice (CoP), launched during Australian Cyber Week (26-30 October). The group will share experiences and knowledge, primarily focusing on cyber security and threats to computer and telecommunications infrastructure and services.
It will also work closely with the nation’s universities on cyber threats related to people, processes and technologies, and will maintain an open access repository to share findings.
Not just computer science
The launch of the CoP comes shortly after the federal government unveiled Australia’s new $1.67 billion National Cyber Security Strategy, which seeks to “develop new government capabilities, incentivise industry to protect themselves and their customers, build trust in the digital economy, and support the community to be secure online”.
UniSA SmartSat Professorial Chair of Cybersecurity and CoP steering committee member Professor Jill Slay AM said cyber engineering was not computer science, but lived at the nexus of cyber security, applied computing, telecommunications, systems and network engineering.
“We need to create the understanding of cyber engineering as an integration of new and existing knowledge to deal with challenges to the security of emerging technologies,” she told create.
Cyber engineers design and implement secure network solutions intended to defend against hackers and cyberattacks. It is a combination of electrical engineering and computer science that usually involves skills developed in fields such as digital forensics, security policy and hardware and software.
Major General Thompson said cyber engineers were at the heart of Australia’s “technical backend”.
“In our increasingly connected environment, we’re all exposed to threats in cyberspace,” he said.
“The speed of the delivery, and scale of the effect, make all digital platforms vulnerable.”
In practice, this means all engineering professionals need to think about the security and resilience of the product they are designing and delivering.
“Every engineering discipline — our control systems, the way vehicles and ships and aircraft all work — they’re all digital systems,” he said.
“That means cybersecurity and resilience need to be built into engineering design.”
Major General Thompson hopes the CoP will attract the attention of cyber professionals who have an interest in engineering, as well as engineers who have an interest in cyber.
“I’m encouraged by the change that will happen with new generations of engineers and cyber professionals,” he said.
“We need every engineering student, and every practising engineer, to be thinking about cyber security and cyber resilience as part of their core work.”
The new community aims to play a role in creating greater awareness of the important issues, as well as encouraging discussions between relevant organisations and leaders, and among professionals working in the field.
“Despite what some people might see in Hollywood and elsewhere, the national cyber capability is a human capability — it’s about people,” Major General Thompson said.
“Having that professional home, the opportunity to share ideas and develop expertise and network with like-minded individuals is so important.”
To get involved or for more information about Engineers Australia’s Cyber Engineering Community of Practice, click here.