New cybersecurity centre offers 'job security'

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh, head of computing at Unitec, speaks at the opening of the new Cybersecurity Research Centre. Photo / Supplied
Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh, head of computing at Unitec, speaks at the opening of the new Cybersecurity Research Centre. Photo / Supplied

Cybersecurity experts are hoping a new high-tech research centre in Auckland will help meet increasing demand for skilled graduates.

Unitec, in collaboration with Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), officially opened its Cybersecurity Research Centre last night.

As well as providing valuable cybersecurity research to both countries, the centre aimed to produce highly skilled people in an industry seeing strong job growth, said Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh, head of computing at Unitec.

"It's an area where jobs are. That's why we feel it's an important area for Unitec to be involved in," he said.

"If you want job security, look at cybersecurity as a profession."

Auckland-based network security company Mako had doubled its staff numbers to 55 in the past year, with 42 of these working in New Zealand.

Chief executive Bill Farmer said the centre's opening came at a good time and was in his company's interests.

"The single biggest obstacle to growth is finding people with the skills to employ," he said.

"Learning how to stop or mitigate cyber attacks is not easy."

Mako would be paying attention to students leaving the centre.

"We're looking to employ another 75 people before December next year and there's a good probability that some of the best students from here will come to us."

Farmer was concerned about New Zealanders' ignorance to cyber attacks and said as a nation we were too casual.

"I think there's a bit of an understanding around the world that New Zealand is becoming a bit of a soft touch."

Based at Unitec's Mt Albert campus, the Cybersecurity Research Centre would be modelled on Japan's NICT centre.

It has technology on-site to monitor cyber traffic in and out of New Zealand in real time.

The two centres would share their data and information in order to help analyse and control the situation of cyber attacks.

Sarrafzadeh said opening the centre was a strategic move for New Zealand and "joining forces" with Japan would make our country safer.

There was a need to protect New Zealand's "vulnerable" infrastructure assets such as the financial, transportation and electricity sectors, he said.

Other major goals were to increase public awareness about the risks of going online and to build a globally competitive cybersecurity workforce.

He cited Norton's Report on Cybercrime, which recently suggested that 72 per cent of adults in Australasia were victims of cybercrime.

The NICT is Japan's national research institute for information and communications technology.

Vice president Dr Kaumasa Enami said last night that "collaboration is the most important thing for us and that's why we're here".

Cybersecurity was the term given for systems designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack or unauthorised access.

Unitec was looking at an initial three-year partnership with NICT with the aim to continue for a further three years after that.

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