Australia faces increasing cyber security threats, potentially affecting not only Australian businesses and financial institutions, but government and the education sector as well.
In response to these challenges, the Australian government established the Enhancing Cyber Security Across Australia’s University Sector Project, to measure the sector’s preparedness for any potential threat and to identify ways of increasing and improving the security of the sector’s research, data and personnel against cyber security breaches and foreign interference.
The Enhancing Cyber Security Across Australia’s University Sector Project, funded by the Department of Education, began in September 2020 and formed part of Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy.
Professor Matthew Warren, Director of RMIT’s Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CCSRI), was engaged to lead the research into the cyber security capability and resilience of the Australian university sector, which is considered part of Australia’s critical infrastructure. The project also aimed to enhance the university sector’s ability to meet evolving security threats, and to integrate its response with the broader national response to reducing and eliminating foreign interference.
Research was undertaken in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Home Affairs, and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
The research undertaken by the Enhancing Cyber Security Across Australia’s University Sector Project was the first of its kind, in how it approached improving cyber security across the entire university sector. It built on the 2019 It the University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference.
The project’s research into enhancing the Australian university sector’s cyber capability and resilience involved:
- investigating the university sector’s current capabilities to counter foreign interference through surveys and historical analysis;
- examining the sector’s existing mechanisms to receive and share threat intelligence, and connecting the sector to existing Threat Sharing mechanism platforms;
- developing an online tool to help create further threat models and mechanisms
- developing a comprehensive suite of resources (in line with government resources) to assist universities with upskilling their entire community.
Overview of the impact
As a result of the six Trusted Cyber Security Forums, a trusted and nationally recognised peak forum for senior university members who have accountabilities relating to cybersecurity has been established.
The RMIT Enhancing Cyber Security Project Resources also established a SharePoint site with over 40 resources made freely available to the Sector. Through the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), resources have been extended to the entire higher education sector.
Professor Warren presented at the 2021 Universities Australia Counter Foreign Interference Conference and at the November 2022 TEQSA Conference.
Due to the sensitivity around the issue of cyber security in the university sector, the project outputs have not been made publicly available at the request of the Department of Education, but can be made available internally if requested.
The Centre won the 2023 iTnews Benchmark Award for the best educational project for the UFIT project.
Enhancing Cyber Security - Case Study
Download and read the full case study for the Enhancing Cyber Security project by clicking the button below.