Security Experts: Turnbull’s Hacker Recruitment Drive Will Cause Headaches For The Government

Last month, the Turnbull government announced a $230 million Cyber Security Defence Strategy which would potentially enable the country to strike back against foreign cyber attacks. Consultants have now warned that recruiting hundreds of cyber security contractors could be problematic. Here’s why.

The funding boost comes after another $400 million was allocated to pay for staff with hacking experience to work for the Australian Signals Directorate, a key intelligence agency.

Karen Evans, managing director of talent management firm Acendre, said she expected the government to launch a recruitment drive with up to 900 positions filled in the coming year.

Around 800 new roles in intelligence, space and cyber security divisions were announced in the Defence white paper with another 100 to be stretched across government departments.

The government has capped the number of public servants within the Department of Defence at 18,200, prompting unions to fear close to 1000 staff will be made redundant given current staffing of around 18,000.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is scanning universities for graduates with experience in computers, software development, data analysis and mathematics.

“The volume of 900 new positions is going to present a number of challenges to the government,” Ms Evans said.

“There is likely to be a lot of interest in these roles although, as always, there will be interest from a number of people who are not qualified to fulfil the role.”

According to the government’s cyber security strategy, specialist officers will be hired and trained at the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police to improve technical analysis and forensic assessments.

Ms Evans said the government would need to consider the cost of recruiting cyber security specialists with many likely to be hired on a temporary basis.

“A number of professionals want to go on contracts because they can earn more money, which brings a challenge of being able to afford them,” she said.

She said the government also needed to consider whether it could build and maintain talent sharing arrangements with the private sector.

“We know the banks have been looking into this for some time,” she said. “Can the government build global networks to share talent globally?”

But Professionals Australia ACT director David Smith, whose union represents technical staff at defence, said the recruitment of contractors was problematic.

“Using temporary or contract staff in cyber security roles, indeed in any national security roles, creates an unnecessary security risk and will come at a premium,” he said.

“Uncertainty of ongoing employment is not only disliked by your bank manager but it is a weakness that can be targeted by other organisations.”

Mr Smith has also raised concerns the majority of new roles at the Department of Defence would require specialist knowledge unlikely to be found in the existing workforce.

According to the white paper, the new roles will be accommodated by ongoing cuts to the bureaucracy and existing staff will be retrained to perform specialist functions.

“Defence has identified the need for 1200 new roles but they have to do it within the envelope of 18,200 APS employees,” he said. “1000 will have to go. It’s that simple.”

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