“It’s an enabler”: How cyber supports, not stops, innovation and digital transformation

Aug 10, 2022

By Mary Attard, Partner, Cyber Security & Digital Trust – Identity & Access Management at PwC Australia

There is a common golden thread running through digital innovation, transformation and trust – cybersecurity. It makes our digital lives and Australia’s digital economy safer and, as it comes to innovation, helps us move forward more quickly, blocking hazards and adding efficiencies along the way.
And because they are inextricably linked, if one goes awry, the rest fail too. Which is why we need to ensure our digital systems are secure. This is the key to driving not only digital transformation and innovation, but digital trust more broadly.

Last week I was honoured to moderate a fascinating discussion addressing a very topical issue – whether cybersecurity poses a threat to innovation, digital transformation and business growth.

The discussion, co-hosted by PwC Australia and the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, brought together some of Australia and Israel’s best and brightest cyber minds to share their perspectives with some of our nation’s top business leaders.

Providing a domestic perspective, AGL’s CISO Maryam Bechtel and NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s CISO Bianca Wirth, were keen to discuss the key role cybersecurity plays in supporting essential services, particularly pertinent given recent reforms of Australia’s critical infrastructure regime.

And beamed in all the way from the ‘Start-Up Nation’, Israel, Check Point’s Chief Revenue and Customer Officer Dr Dorit Dor and Team8’s CTO Gal Tal-Hochberg, provided fascinating insights into their country’s innovation culture. In particular, they highlighted the necessity of secure-by-design principles and their central role now and into the future in supporting tech development and responsible innovation.

It was a lively discussion about an issue that continues to polarise the cyber and tech communities, with a diverse range of views presented. And, despite some differing opinions, there was a common thread – that cyber is an enabler, not an inhibitor, of innovation and growth.

Maryam Bechtel summed it up perfectly when she said: “Cyber cannot be for the sake of cyber – we have to use it to enable tech”.

Likewise, Gal Tal-Hochberg pointed out that “we live in a world where people expect security”, encouraging innovators to make this a primary consideration when designing new tech.

Personally, a highlight of the discussion was the keen focus on the often-overlooked human side of cyber. The fact that innovation and tech development need to be more human focussed, promoting intuitive responses with secure-by-design principles baked in.

Bianca Wirth captured this sentiment in relation to the changing cyber workforce, observing that “cyber needs a broad and multi-disciplinary workforce … when we do that we deliver for digital”.

Similarly, Dr Dor pointed out that “we need empathy for users”, noting human needs to be front and centre when we “think about the right problems to solve”.

The issue of who bears responsibility for cybersecurity at an organisational level was also discussed. And all our speakers agreed – cyber is everyone’s responsibility but it must start from the top down, ingrained into organisational culture.

There’s no doubt we could have kept talking all night (and all day in Israel), with the hour flying by. To me, this really illustrates that people are eager to know more about cybersecurity. It also hit home the passion the people in this industry have for making the community safer, be it doing business or at home.

And, with a sense of hesitant optimism, I think we’re moving in the right direction.