The professional association for Australia's ICT industry has warned there are not enough specialists to deliver the federal government's $230 million cyber security strategy.
Australian Computer Society president Anthony Wong said the government faced a shortfall of up to 100,000 ICT professionals by 2020 and urgent action was needed to expand the workforce.
"With our lives increasingly going online, security and privacy are two of the top issues confronting businesses," he said.
"We are going to need more professionals who are familiar with these threats to protect us online."
Earlier this year, the government announced it was prepared to strike back against foreign cyber attacks with funds to be spent recruiting hundreds of police and cyber security specialists.
The funding boost comes after another $400 million was allocated to pay for staff with hacking experience to work for the Australian Signals Directorate, a key intelligence agency.
But consultants have warned a recruitment drive for close to 900 positions will cause headaches for the government in coming years.
To bolster the workforce, Mr Wong said industry leaders needed to improve gender equality and ensure older Australians could be retrained and secure employment.
"Women represent only 28 per cent of the IT professionals, while across other professions they represent 43 per cent," he said.
"We need to work harder to have more women in the ICT workforce as well as staff older than 55 years, who represent just 11 per cent of the workforce.
"With the retirement age now extended, it is logical to encourage people who want to stay in the workforce to do so. If they are willing and able, they can be retrained and deployed into cyber security roles."
Cyber crime costs Australians close to $1 billion each year, with the government warning it could increase to $17 billion in coming years.
The average cost of a cyber attack for businesses is $276,000 with government authorities responding to almost 12,000 incidents during 2014-15.
In the past six months, the computer system at the Bureau of Meteorology experienced a "massive breach", believed to have originated in China, and it was reported that 97 federal agencies were told to encrypt more data amid "hundreds" of attempted intrusions a month.
"We need to be raising awareness amongst Australians of the potential risks of the internet, such as identity fraud, and educating them on how they might protect themselves online," Mr Wong said.
The Australian Computer Society, which has more than 20,000 members across the country, has called for targeted education programs at schools and specialist university courses.
UNSW Canberra professor Greg Austin, who has previously warned of glaring holes in Australia's cyber security policy, has also called for a national cyber security college to strengthen the workforce.
Students in his Canberra classroom study the hacker armies of Iran and North Korea, the tactics of Anonymous and WikiLeaks and the development of cyber reserve forces in the UK, USA, Israel and Estonia.
Professor Austin, an executive with the Australian Centre for Cyber Security, said the course would produce graduates capable of working with the government of defence to protect infrastructure.