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Small business has big future thanks to Defence innovation funding

26 July 2022
Founders of cyber security business InfoSect, Silvio Cesare and Kylie McDevitt.

Funding through Defence's Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF) has helped a small cyber security start-up grow its business from being largely a training provider, to one where almost half its income now comes from research and development.

The founders of Canberra-based company, InfoSect had always had an interest in cyber research but had never found a way to monetise it as a commercial company. Indeed, one of the founders, Chief Investigator, Dr Silvio Cesare is a well-known cyber security researcher.

It was NGTF funding that enabled the company to pursue its research activities in earnest.

"The NGTF funding aligned well to our values of research designed to improve upon and address industry requirements," Dr Cesare explains.

When the funding was won in 2021, InfoSect had one full-time and one part-time staff member. It now employs 8 people, with 2 more in the pipeline.

InfoSect Chief Executive Officer, Kylie McDevitt explains that the funding enabled them to grow the business.

"When we were first awarded the funding at the start of 2021, our business was almost wholly a training company. Our training was always informed by novel research in cyber security, however our revenue stream was training," she says.

Dr Cesare explains that research now accounts for almost 50% of the InfoSect's revenue.

Defence's Chief Technology Officer, Innovation and Strategic Research Professor Michelle Gee says that one of the key purposes of the $1.2 billion NGTF fund is to promote the entry and participation of Australian small and medium enterprises in the Defence innovation ecosystem.

"This is exactly the sort of outcome that we hoped the NGTF would deliver – providing small businesses with the support to pursue a promising technology that can deliver critical capability to Defence," she explains.

Infosect won the funding to support the development of its novel cyber security tool, BOGONG.

BOGONG is a tool used to find bugs or vulnerabilities in software using a technique called variant analysis.

Dr Cesare explains. "We knew that software developers often make the same coding mistakes that cause cyber security issues, so we proposed a way of quickly and automatically finding these mistakes in computer code. The results have been very good and we continue to use the tool in our own private assessments."

Defence is also using the tool to monitor vulnerabilities in its software, ensuring that critical programs are safe from cyber attack.

At this point, InfoSect is undecided if BOGONG will be made publicly available or whether it will remain an in-house asset.

Either way, it's a tool that will improve the security of Australian commercial and military software.