Tag Archives: higher education

Fight club at cybersecurity MOOC

In 2012, the Australian Prime Minister’s Office – together with Cisco, Microsoft and Facebook – established an annual hacking competition to find the next generation of web security talent. Student teams from across the country compete in the 24-hour hackathon. And every year, for the past four, Richard Buckland’s students have blown the competition away – taking 1st, 2nd  and 3rd.  “Every year, we blitz it,” says Buckland, head of the Security Engineering Lab and a professor of cyber security at UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering and creator of a cybersecurity MOOC (massive open online course). “So I think we’re doing something right.”

What he does right is organise courses that teach cybersecurity through a series of hands-on exercises, using cloak-and-dagger collaborative games that ignite his students’ enthusiasm. This approach flips the standard teaching model, so that students are taught offence as a way to develop defence; and, in the process, come to understand the mindset of the hacker.

“In addition, we partner with experts to bring in real-world scenarios to the classroom,” Buckland says. Sometimes, these are industry gurus in banking and telecommunications. Sometimes they are badass hackers.

“I can give the students an overview and tell them the theoretical aspects, but then we have cyber community leaders show them how to actually do it,” he says. “I think the role of teachers is to lift our students up above us.” 

Cyber defender Richard Buckland at work with students.

The program’s alumni have brought this collaborative ethos into the corporate world. “I’ve seen the emergence of a community of security professionals who work together, not just for the interests of their own company, but for security in general,” says Buckland.

There is a huge supply and demand problem for cybersecurity professionals. A recent report by US-based market research company Cybersecurity Ventures estimates cybercrime cost companies US$4 trillion in 2015, and is set to rise to US$8 trillion annually by 2021. 

It’s a criminal epidemic that can only be fought by cybersecurity experts, a profession that is itself growing at a rate of 18% annually, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Cisco estimates there are more than a million unfilled security jobs worldwide. “In the early days, companies just repurposed rebels and old-style malcontent hackers, dressing them in suits and paying them lots of money,” says Buckland. “That was a really great solution. Until the pool ran dry.”

Now that cybersecurity experts need to be mass produced, the burden is falling to universities. “But no one worldwide really knows how to do it – there isn’t yet expertise on training up the rebels and breakers you want.” 

Teaching the mindset of a hacker via cybersecurity MOOC

To help quench demand, Buckland is developing a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for anyone to learn cybersecurity, as part of a A$1.6 million SEC.EDU partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to expand UNSW’s cybersecurity teaching resources and curriculum.

Already, almost 20,000 budding cyber defenders have signed up to the introductory cybersecurity MOOC, 60% of them from Australia, ranging from information technology professionals wanting to brush up on the latest technical knowhow, to schoolchildren – even miners and taxi drivers who want to reskill.

Perhaps most crucial are the many teachers and lecturers taking the course, exponentially increasing Buckland’s reach. “For university academics who have been brought up in a traditional non-hacker way, cyber is a little bit scary to teach,” he says. “Academics can borrow our lecture notes and course materials, or just be influenced to – I hope – become believers in the particular way we teach cyber.”  

Buckland’s cybersecurity MOOC is hosted on Open Learning, Australia’s first MOOC provider and a company he co-founded in 2012 with former student and now chief executive Adam Brimo. Designed to deliver more engaging courses online, the platform features lecture videos and exercises, along with wikis and social media-style technologies to allow people to interact and collaborate.

And Buckland is not just focusing on young adults and professionals. Aiming to instil a cybersecurity mentality at an early age, he goes into primary schools to teach kids the basic mindset of a hacker and how to protect against cybercrime. “I’m trying to get the kids to scam each other in a controlled way, because I think then they get to understand how scams work and how to be defensive against them.”

– Ben Skuse

Featured image: Suzanne Elworthy

Read about the collaborative opportunities presented by cybersecurity challenges here.

partnerships

Coming to the table

While it may not be immediately obvious, universities and industry have a shared purpose: universities focus on educating people and creating new knowledge; industry seeks to be more innovative, productive and diverse. Our shared purpose is in delivering solutions to help tackle social challenges and drive economic growth.

We’re in the midst of a global knowledge economy and universities are a vital centre of competence for end-users such as industry. Industry and the professions get the benefit of universities’ research and intellectual capacities. Universities get access to stimulating questions, new challenges and opportunities for our students.

Collaboration works when you have something the other party wants. Being open to collaboration begets other collaboration and it leads on from there.

That being said, universities are a business like any other. We may not be commercial organisations but we’re pro-commercial. And in business you have to supply what the market wants.

The European universities where I began my career are active collaborative institutions and I saw an opportunity to bring this ethos to the University of South Australia, an institution that has a history of working with industry and the professions.

In the four years that I have been Vice Chancellor of the institution I have seen the growth of more than 2500 partnerships that range from guest lectureships to program advisory boards to co-creators of program content.

One great example of collaboration is the one we have with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). We co-developed a 4-year Honours degree, the Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) (Enterprise Business Solutions) which offers 12 month paid internships for students. HPE has also become an Anchor Industry Partner in our Innovation and Collaboration Centre for students and start-ups and they’re a Foundation Partner in our new Museum of Discovery that’s due to open in 2018.

I have also seen the breaking down of silos within my own institution as we plan our new education precinct, which will be a focal point of educational innovation and enterprise.

The first partnership is with the State government, the schooling sector and the university. This was followed by partnerships between our engineering people, our environmental management experts, our architects and interior designers to build a precinct that will ultimately accommodate all facets of education.

We’re extending transdisciplinary approaches to education by engaging social work, psychology and other areas to contribute to the learning and holistic development of young people.

Having sat on both sides of the table I have seen collaboration work, and not work. It works when you have a shared vision of the project and you can see what each party stands to gain. You also need to know to walk away early if you know something is not going to work.

Ultimately collaboration allows you to do what you do even better.

I don’t know if the question is ‘Collaborate or crumble’. Collaborate or become increasingly irrelevant might be more apposite.

Professor David Lloyd

Vice Chancellor, UniSA

Read next: Hon Philip Dalidakis MP, Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation & Trade, discusses cybersecurity as a perfect example of turning a challenge into a collaboration opportunity.

Spread the word: Help Australia become a collaborative nation! Share this piece on university partnerships using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Digital Disruption Thought Leadership Series here.

graduate program

Getting into a top graduate program

An excellent graduate program helped accelerate my career progress.

I arrived in Australia at the turn of the century. The trigger for leaving South Africa to move here was a little-known industrial automation software called Citect. I was inspired by this Australian invention, that back then was simply the most advanced, most innovative software in its industry.

It had been less than 10 years since I graduated from university with an Electrical Engineering degree, but the first five years were the most formative. The company that employed me as a fresh graduate had a fantastic graduate program, and equipped me with essential skills that have served me well for the past 25 years.

Today I look back on the 16 years I have been at Cochlear – another great Australian innovation – and am proud to have been part of an organisation that excels at nurturing young talent.


An undervalued characteristic is curiosity, coupled with the eagerness to experiment without the fear of failure.”


I’ve witnessed many excellent graduate programs develop in Australia and I believe they are vital for helping young professionals to realise their full potential. We’ve been running our own graduate program at Cochlear for the last 10 years. Many of the graduates who began their careers in that program are now in leadership positions and excelling at their jobs. One of the reasons it has been so successful is because Cochlear focuses on hiring people with skills that set them up for success.

Possessing the technical fundamentals taught in STEM-based degrees is only part of what we look for in a prospective graduate. Other important attributes are intuition, creativity, critical thinking, communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively within and between multidisciplinary teams.

Collaboration in particular has become such an important attribute in a young people entering graduate programs. I cannot emphasize enough the need to develop this ability early, especially when aspiring to leadership roles. The days of the lone, genius contributor have all but gone. Today, the projects and startups that produce ground-breaking products achieve this because of the team-collaboration factor. Nothing says this more outspokenly than when Atlassian listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market and named their stock symbol “TEAM”.

Perhaps another undervalued characteristic in graduates is curiosity, coupled with the eagerness to experiment without the fear of failure. A number of companies have a graduate program that formalises this process. Google and Atlassian are two companies that have successfully implemented 20% experiment time. There are countless examples of successful products that were born from these programs, such as Gmail, AdSense and Google News.

Often in an interview I will ask a candidate what they do in their spare time – the things they don’t put on their resumes, which might indicate a genuine thirst for knowledge.

Looking more closely at the foundation of Australian graduates, I’d like to add a few thoughts on STEM education in schools. In a 2014 Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute report, Kelly Roberts provides some disturbingly low participation rates of women in STEM subjects in high school. As the father of two daughters, my hope is that education systems will improve in order to draw out the innate inquisitiveness of young kids.

Let us build on that capability at an early age and nurture it. Let us teach them reasoning and critical thinking skills as young as possible. These skills are the means to building a stronger Australia.

Victor Rodrigues

Chief Software Architect, Cochlear 

Read next: Andrew Coppin, venture capital investor, on the changing demographic of founders in today’s startup scene.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

Spread the word: Help to grow Australia’s graduate knowhow! Share this piece using the social media buttons below.

Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on creating and propelling top Australian graduates. We’d love to hear from you!

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Australian Innovation Thought Leadership Series here.