Staying Cyber Safe
Puzzle-solving skills and some creative thinking can help strengthen the cyber safety of billions of people around the world.
Cyber attacks through hacking, malware infections and email scams are on the rise and can affect every single one of us. “In today’s interconnected digital world, we’re only as strong as our weakest link,” says Ben Heyes, chief information security and trust officer at the Commonwealth Bank.
Cybercrime can have a major impact on business, such as banking, governments and critical utilities like water and electricity. And even though the digital economy in Australia is worth around $70 billion, and predicted to double in the next five years, cybercrime can make a big dent in that, costing Australians an estimated $1.2 billion in 2015.
As a result, cyber safety experts are in demand with giant tech firms like Google, Microsoft and Facebook looking for graduates with high-level coding, encryption and forensic investigative skills.
Yet such people are difficult to find because of a shortage of highly skilled graduates with hands-on experience, says UNSW Australia’s Richard Buckland, associate professor in computer security and cybercrime.
His students are taught cybersecurity through simulated attack scenarios based on well-known global hacking cases from the past five years. For example, one group of hackers took control of a Jeep and drove it down a US highway, prompting Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.4 million cars for a security upgrade of its software in July 2015.
In the same month, a dating site promoting extramarital affairs was hacked by a vigilante group that threatened to release the details of members unless the website’s owners complied with their demands.
Cybersecurity students study computer science and develop a deep understanding of coding as well as practical work skills. Just as hackers think strategically and tactically, students are taught to work along these lines, too. Students also examine the rise of cyberterrorism, cyber intelligence and cyber policing for cyber safety.
Universities such as Macquarie and UNSW are setting up specialist cybersecurity research centres with computer laboratories that study a wide range of areas, including web services security, mobile security, wireless security, peer-to-peer computing security and much more.
University courses are evolving quickly to be relevant in this rapidly changing area.
“You need to be a good attacker to be a good defender,” Richard says. “We really believe in applied skills, we don’t teach theoretical skills where students pass exams and graduate. We want to teach them real-world skills so they can be effective in the workplace as soon as they graduate.”
– Susan Hely
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