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MBIE funding ahead of zombie apocalypse


16 September, 2014

Jobs and markets to come from project funding

A six-year, $12million cyber security project will lead to the creation of tools which will return control of cloud-based data to users, but it is the prospect of creating jobs and a new market for New Zealand which excites the man leading the project, Dr Ryan Ko.

Dr Ko is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Studies at the University of Waikato and heads New Zealand’s only cybersecurity lab.

He says the STRATUS (Security Technologies Returning Accountability, Transparency and User-centric Services in the Cloud) project could create a new industry and put New Zealand on the cyber security map.

“Hopefully we can create a new niche for New Zealand in software,” he says.

“And we can create jobs, contribute to the economy and increase demand for more research.”

The project funding was announced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment last week and Dr Ko says it was a “pleasant surprise” to find his application had been successful.

The $12,223,770 (including GST) project is a collaborative one between the University of Waikato, Auckland University, Unitec and the Cloud Security Alliance, a not-for-profit organisation which promotes the use of best practice for providing security within cloud computing.

Dr Ko says the first thing to do would be to meet with the other organisations and develop a plan.

“We need to get together for a brainstorming workshop on this. There are main KPIs listed so we have to decide how we are going to achieve them through working together as a team.”

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There would also be a series of discussions with industry partners – including Aura Information Security, Gallaghers, Green Button, LayerX, Mako Networks and Wynyard Group - who had committed more than $300,000 to the project.

The project will be utilising Cloud8 – the Cyber Security Lab’s cloud computing test bed, which was set up in 2013 so experiments could be run in a realistic environment.

Dr Ko says it will likely be about two years before the first breakthroughs are ready for industry technology transfer and adoption.

“It will be a series of tools that enhance the transparency of data in the cloud,” he says.

“It‘s quite an aggressive timeline but we have been working on some of this since the lab was first set up.”

“We want users to be able to control their own security of their data in the cloud and to give companies tools to sell.”

He hoped other companies would come on board as the project progressed.

Those already committed had expressed a desire to work in fields such as corporate security, animation, small business, retail and justice.

The funding comes just days before Dr Ko and his students host New Zealand’s first university-initiated cyber security challenge.

The challenge takes place over two days on 18-19 September and will pit cyber security experts against a staged zombie apocalypse in which they will attempt to access secure networks in search of an antidote.

About 50 people are expected to take part in the challenge, which has the backing of the cyber security industry. Cyber security experts from sponsors Aura Information Security and PwC will be on hand to offer advice to participants and discuss career opportunities.
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