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Australian cyber technology company Penten has established a specialist business unit dedicated to securing sovereign communication technologies for defence and emergency services.

The unit was launched at Penten’s Canberra headquarters by Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Melissa Price MP today.

Penten’s new business unit, Tactical Communications Security, aims to support Australian Industry in the delivery of secure and easy-to-use communication technologies that are compatible across military, emergency and humanitarian applications.

Headed by Penten’s Chief Technology Officer, Merik Karman, the new business unit today has a team of 10 dedicated people specialising in advanced electronics, waveforms, cryptography, photonics, field programmable gate arrays and high assurance security.

The new Tactical Communications Security business unit is working with some of Australia’s leading radio manufacturers to secure new communications solutions focused on Defence requirements.

With multiple contracts already and the ability to draw on Penten’s Secure Mobility and Applied AI business units and 100 strong team for specialist resources, the new business unit is forecast to grow rapidly creating more high value engineering jobs in Australia.

At the core of the communications opportunities is the use of new Australian radio systems enhanced by Penten’s unique sovereign encryption solutions.

Penten CEO Matthew Wilson said the company realised, and sought to address new communications security needs, a missing link in Australia’s sovereign radio technologies.

“We knew that Penten had the capability and the expertise to develop and provide support and solutions to Australia’s radio communications companies to meet Defence needs, allowing those in uniform to focus on doing their job rather than managing technology,” he said.

“This sovereign technology demonstrates that Australian Industry has the capacity and capability to develop home-grown solutions that are focussed on delivering to Defence a technology advantage.”

Mr Wilson said the sovereign secure communications technologies being developed would:

  • harness the critical advanced manufacturing skills and expertise within Australia
  • allow different Defence elements to co-ordinate and communicate effectively, easily and securely
  • deliver highly complex technologies, in a simple solution to enable the focus on the mission.

Penten Chief Technology Officer Merik Karman said he had evaluated and researched radio technologies in recent years, in a mission to extend existing technology and transform it into a modern solution that was more secure and user-friendly.

“We are working intimately with Australia’s leading radio specialists to combine their expertise with Penten’s secure mobility technology to develop a truly sovereign secure communication solution.” he said.

One of the projects the team is already currently engaged is the C4 EDGE Program, launched in August 2020.

 

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On Tuesday 10 November 2020, Penten was named by the Australian Financial Review as a successful and growing cyber business despite the difficult year 2020 has been for many.

The pandemic has accelerated a digital transformation with two years of growth occurring within just two months. This, in addition to the commitment by the Morrison Government of a $1.4 billion investment in cyber capabilities, has seen the cyber industry grow at an accelerated pace.

The defence sector has also been an integral part of this digital revolution. Funding has increased for defence innovation, industry grants, skilling and cyber training.

Since founding in 2014, Penten has grown from five to 97 employees and expects to grow to 125 next year.

Matthew Wilson, Penten CEO and one of the company’s five founders, says innovation has been key to that growth. Since 2014, Penten has invested $10 million in research and development.

“We actively look to solve the most difficult cyber security problems in government and defence. We look for the white space in the world and create a solution where there isn’t one,” Wilson says.

“We’re not just about creating technology. We solve problems and we deliver outcomes for our customers.”

Sarah Bailey, CFO, Penten says people are integral to the company’s success.

“We’ve worked hard to create and maintain a great culture. Our culture is one of our biggest assets. It produces huge benefits for us. It’s a competitive advantage in terms of the talent we need to attract as we grow.”

Veterans comprise 28 per cent of Penten’s workforce. Bailey says that’s been “a fundamental element” of Penten’s success.

Wilson is bullish about Penten’s future. “We’re on the cusp of significant growth,” he says.

Wilson and Bailey will steward Penten through this growth by focusing on innovation and culture – with the right capital partner. They have engaged PwC to support their capital market engagement process.

“We see great opportunities before us to build an organisation that makes a great contribution to Australia’s cyber security and to the Australian economy,” said Wilson.

In an Australian first, a group of innovative, sovereign cyber companies collaborated to create a successful pilot of a fully online, collective cyber training program for the Australian Defence Force.

Australian businesses: Cydarm, Elttam, Penten and Retrospect Labs each with expertise in niche cyber technology came together to tailor a solution for Defence on FifthDomain’s cyber training platform.

The aim of the Accelerated Defence Cyber Training (ADCT) Program echoes the current need for remotely accessible training programs while also addressing the requirement to rapidly increase cyber skills across Defence and industry.

The fully online training program was conducted from FifthDomain’s headquarters in Canberra, and was delivered remotely to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel across the country over a three-week timeframe.

The program included a highly realistic virtual environment with simulated exercises. The trainees were grouped into virtual teams to remediate vulnerabilities and respond to simulated and real threat actors.

On the final day of the pilot, MAJGEN Marcus Thompson, Head of Information Warfare Division, ADF, visited FifthDomain’s office in within UNSW’s Launch Precinct to connect virtually with over 50 program trainees and congratulate the Australian consortium partners for their achievement.

“Building home-grown cyber capabilities is a team effort. In Defence, we’re developing our capabilities in an increasingly connected world – which extends to the battlefield. The collaboration of local SME’s to support the training progression of ADF cyber operators gives me great confidence that we’re on the right track. I commend our partners Fifth Domain, Penten, Cydarm, Elttam and Retrospect Labs for contributing to the acceleration of ADF cyber training,” said Thompson.

Michelle Price, AustCyber CEO, said this is a real-world demonstration of the strength of Australia’s cyber security ecosystem.

“Seeing five sovereign cyber businesses come together to provide a virtual training platform for Defence is a great example of the strong cyber security sector in Australia and shows that Australian cyber businesses can provide the solutions Defence needs. A strong domestic cyber security sector is critical for Australia’s competitiveness and reputation as a trusted place to do business.”

Cydarm, a Melbourne-based business, deployed their case management platform and dashboard as a command and control system to coordinate team activities and provide oversight for the mentors. This enabled trainees in the cybersecurity operations teams to collaborate on responding to incidents while the mentors continually assessed their progress.

Vaughan Shanks, CEO of Cydarm Technologies is proud to be counted among the growing number of sovereign Australian cybersecurity companies, and grateful for the support of the ADF and our partners.
“Developing home-grown expertise is a key objective of the Australian government as it focuses on building sovereign cyber capability to generate jobs, defend Australia and export these solutions to the Asia Pacific region and around the world,” said Shanks.

Elttam, an independent Australian security company which specialises in high-quality offensive and defensive security services, played the role of cyber threat actors for the ADF trainees.

Matt Jones, Director and Co-founder of Elttam said, “We were proud to tailor realistic adversarial scenarios for Defence based on industry experience. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the partnering Australian companies as part of the ADCT Program.”

FifthDomain, the training project lead and provider of the platform, is a leading Australian specialist cyber operations workforce development and management development company based in Canberra.

Matt Wilcox, CEO of FifthDomain commented, “We are proud to be leading this sovereign capability to deliver this unique solution for Defence. FifthDomain’s cyber ranges benefit by being able to integrate niche technologies from our partners to provide Defence the best of breed Australian cyber innovation. And within the context of COVID-19 limitations, the sovereign, remotely accessible platform enables Defence to overcome travel and supply chain challenges to successfully achieve this goal.”

Penten, a Canberra based cyber technology company enjoyed the challenge of integrating their unique AI generated content and user behaviour on FifthDomain’s cyber training platform.

Ben Whitham, Founder and Director of Penten said this is another example of sovereign capability and what we can achieved when we collaborate.

“Although this is only the first step working together, the combined solution of additional realism and automation will enhance the training outcomes, reduce the time taken to create the environments and improve the repeatability,” said Whitham.

Retrospect Labs is building a cyber security exercise platform that takes the burden out of conducting cyber security exercises. The platform makes exercises easy to design, execute, and evaluate, so that organisations can continually practice – and perfect – their response to any cyber incident.

 Jason Pang, CEO of Retrospect Labs is immensely proud to partner with our fellow Australian cyber security companies to deliver a leading, world class experience for our ADF personnel.

“What we did, together, showcases the awesome home-grown talent boutique Australian companies have to offer, and their ability to work so closely together in a way that rivals, and in many ways out shines, the offerings of many established, traditional cyber firms,” said Pang.

Delivery of this program closely aligns with Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020, released in early August 2020, which commits A$1.67b investment over ten years, and outlines a range of initiatives including the growth of the country’s cyber skills pipeline as one of its key recommendations.

Australian sovereign C4 SMEs secure an unsolicited proposal with army for a new sovereign defence industry cooperative model

Seventeen Australian companies have joined the C4 EDGE (Evolutionary Digital Ground Environment) Communications Program, to scope the demonstration of a sovereign land battlegroup and below communications environment for the Australian Army.

The C4 EDGE program will leverage internationally agreed open standards to grow and demonstrate Australian C4 (command control communications and computers) industry capacity and ability to deliver a battlegroup and below C4 capability demonstration.

Ultimately, by the end of 2021 the program will have delivered a proof of concept demonstration that shows the capability of Australian industry to further develop a protected, integrated and supportable sovereign system: one that delivers agile and resilient C2 functionality to meet the flexible, scalable and interoperability needs of a battlegroup operating independently or with partners.

At an event held in Canberra yesterday ACT based companies 1LM, Insitec, Kord Defence, Outlander Solutions, Penten, SkyKraft and Xtec; contracted under the nation-wide program comprised of 17 businesses, were officially welcomed to Team C4 EDGE by Senator Zed Seselja (ACT) and EOS Defence Systems CEO Grant Sanderson.

Grant Sanderson who remarking on the program said:
“The C4 EDGE program is an innovative and creative initiative from the Australian Government and Army that demonstrates their commitment to improved Australian Industry engagement and opportunity. EOS feels very privileged to have the opportunity to lead this activity and help industry present their capabilities.”

Team members based in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, who were unable to participate in the event due to COVID-19 travel restrictions will be officially welcomed during a series of locally-arranged events and announcements next week.

Team C4 EDGE Statistics:

  • C4 EDGE is represented in six Australian states and one territory
  • 17 Australian C4 subject matter expert companies
  • 975 employees
  • Approx. $616M of annual gross turnover
  • Approx. $408M in annual global exports

Comments from ACT representatives:

Joel Deans, CEO, 1LM (providing specialist resourcing expertise):

“We are excited and honoured to be a part of this tremendous initiative showcasing sovereign Australian Defence capability. 1LM is proud to contribute its local domain knowledge and technical expertise to shape and manage the system design and engineering program.”

Michael Branch, CEO, Insitec MIS (providing application environment solutions):

“We are incredibly excited to be able to conduct this program with the Army and bring a fresh new 21st century approach to provisioning of capability to the soldiers of the ADF”.

Peter Moran, CEO, Kord Defence (providing push-button control technology):

“It is both an honour and a privilege to be working with so many innovative Australian companies in developing a communications capability that is not only unique but developed in Australia for Australian soldiers. Kord’s push-button control technology will enable the soldier to simply and easily operate this new communications technology without being distracted or putting themselves in harm’s way; a small, but important contribution to the overall effort.”

Bevan Jones, CEO/CTO, Outlander Solutions (providing soldier-networking technology):

“Building a smarter Australian manufacturing base is more critical now more than ever to our nation’s future. Facing global destabilisation and recessions, the need for local knowledge, local products and a rapid and responsive supplier base to support the ADF in defence and partnership within and around our continent is most critical. We welcome the opportunity to support our colleagues in the Australian Sovereign Industry, and welcome the support for Australian and Canberra’s advanced manufacture and product support to build investment and jobs here in Australia for now and a long term future.”

Matthew Wilson, CEO, Penten (providing encryption capability and security compliance):

“There is a grand opportunity for Australia to build its own domestic industry and the C4 Edge program will prove it’s possible. Australia is well placed to grow a sovereign industrial base and create competitive advantage through digital resilience. Here is an opportunity to use this momentum to steer Australia’s economic story. We are proud of what we are building as an industry. It’s possible that Australia can be the digital security leader in our region and be a reliable source of technology advantage to our allies, but first we need to be a customer of our own innovations.’’

James Prior, Managing Director, SkyKraft (providing space-based global services through constellations of small satellites):

“The C4 Edge Development Program represents a paradigm change in the Army’s approach for sovereign capability development. Australian businesses possess the skills, expertise, novel mindset and customer focus to create robust and innovative solutions for real world applications that will keep the Australian Defence Force on the front foot. Skykraft looks forward to the innovations that will be realised through the C4 Edge Program and the partnerships it represents.”

Philippe Odouard, MD, XTEK (providing sensors and geospatial application):

“C4 EDGE provides XTEK with the opportunity to further leverage the benefits of our home grown XTatlasTM technology, along with other sub-systems and technology from distinguished Australian based partners. The potential to utilise XTatlasTM to enable a small unmanned aerial systems vehicle to locate, track and communicate targets to a remote weapon system is one of the many exciting aspects of this program.”

Pictured: left to right: Bob Quodling, COO, XTEK; Colonel Deane Limmer; Troy Huckstepp, COO, 1LM; Justin Bain, CEO, 3ME; Matthew Wilson, CEO, Penten; Senator Zed Seselja (ACT); Grant Sanderson, CEO, EOS Defence Systems; Bevan Jones, CEO Outlander Solutions; Michael Branch, CEO, Insitec; James Prior, Managing Director, SkyKraft; Peter Moran, CEO, Kord