Cyber security: from threat to opportunity, competition to collaboration

The Cyber Strategy recently announced by the Federal Government has rightly put the topic at the very top of the national agenda.

After all, it’s not often that both the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, controversial international dating sites, and our major financial institutions face dangers from similar types of attack. The increasing scale of the risks, coupled with the pace of technological change, means that only by standing together can Australian business, government and academia face the challenges of cyber security. Business as usual just isn’t good enough.

There is no simple answer.

In our most recent KPMG Global CEO survey, only 35 percent of Australian CEOs said they were fully prepared for a future cyber security event, and 29 percent said the current control systems for cyber-attacks in their industry were inadequate.

On the ground, cyber has become a cat and mouse game. On one side, industry experts and government bodies are tracking and responding to increasing levels of attack, while simultaneously grappling with the security issues associated with the implementation of new technologies. On the other, more cyber threats are appearing as criminal elements (and others) look to exploit system weakness for material gain.

The emerging area of fintech is a pivotal battlefield in the overall conflict.

The financial services industry, as custodians of consumers’ most tangible asset, their money, have traditionally been at the forefront of good practice. Cyber has long been a major priority for the sector, and an area they have invested heavily in. However, as banks embrace new digital business models, and new startups continue to emerge – new technologies are implemented which leads to new security vulnerabilities.

In Australia, we have seen a wave of new fintech activity: the establishment of the Stone & Chalk hub; a new national association; initiatives by government at various levels; and increased venture funding from corporates. The excitement and movement in the area is palpable. But we cannot have a vibrant fintech ecosystem without corresponding growth in our cyber security sector. The two go together hand-in-hand – both to offset threat and to grasp the opportunity to become a leader in Asia-Pacific.

In my day-to-day job, I often work with clients to prepare for, protect against, detect and respond to breaches, cyber-attacks and cyber-crime. I also interact regularly with the fintech and innovation sectors, including startups. What I’ve come to realise is that, in order to capitalise on the opportunity of cyber, those of us active in the field need to evolve how we see the world. We need to collaborate, not compete.

Leading financial institutions have recognised the need and benefits with collaborating and sharing cyber threat information and how they have responded to the threat.  But these groups tend to operate as closed forums, rather than truly engaged and open communities. In a competitive environment, people often fear being seen to work with the opposition.

But cyber is a global issue that is growing in complexity. We can no longer afford to work in silos, and we can no longer hold our data and experience close to our chests. We need to share. We need to build an engaged community, and concentrate on growing the pie, not guarding our piece.

The upcoming National Cyber Fintech Summit, hosted by Stone & Chalk and Data61, is the first step in what could be a massive cultural shift. For the first time, a mix of fintech startups, global cyber experts, financial services leaders, government and academia will come together in Australia to discuss the opportunity and talk about how they can collaborate. I’ve been hugely encouraged to see this event take shape – with people willing to take the step into the unknown and start a conversation.

Fintech is just a piece of the cyber jigsaw. But if we can get it right on this section of the puzzle we can build a framework for other industries to follow. So, if you’re in financial services or cyber and want to get involved, what can you do?

Firstly, follow the conversation. If you can’t attend the summit tomottow, engage with social media – follow #FinCyberAus on Twitter and look out for LinkedIn updates from conference organisers Stone & Chalk, Data61 and supporters KPMG Australia and AICC.

Secondly, join the discussion. We can’t do this in isolation and your opinion and insight will add to the debate.

Finally, if you want to go beyond and contribute directly, reach out directly and contact any of the organisations involved. We’ll all be open to your ideas and participation. After all, it will truly take a coalition of the willing if we are to build an Australian fintech cyber ecosystem that we can be proud of.

Gordon Archibald


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