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A day in the life of an ethical hacker

CBA careers

Trying to think like a hacker and playing Dungeons & Dragons is all in a day’s work (and play) for CBA grad Rhiannon Nee-Salvador. 

Rhiannon Nee-Salvador’s role as a pen tester in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) graduate program is an important one. Often called ethical hackers, it’s the job of experts like Rhiannon to figure out where and how a hacker might break into an organisation’s computer system.

“I am passionate about privacy and preventing the erosion of our digital rights,” Rhiannon says.

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It was Rhiannon’s love of games that inspired her to try courses in programming and game development. She worked as a video editor and a video games journalist before enrolling in an IT degree. But what does a day in the life of a pen tester actually look like? We asked Rhiannon to walk us through:

9:30am: I boot up my laptop to access my virtual machines (apps that act like full, separate computers) to run tests on them throughout the day. I can create, copy or delete a virtual machine in a few minutes.

10:00am: Team meeting to determine which tests to run. The kinds of tests I do change depending on the system I’m working on, but I mostly deal with web applications that access internal systems used by bank employees.

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11:00am: I will poke around the site to see what it does and if I can ‘break’ anything. My work also involves capturing traffic, analysing HTML and other web code and writing reports about what I find.

12:30pm: I need a brain break from all the critical and creative thinking! Most days I’ll have lunch and play cards or board games with my colleagues.

1:30pm: More system testing. We try to use the same tools as real-world attackers, which means my work computer is full of hacker tools!

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3:00pm: Tea break or we go for a walk; it’s very flexible. It’s good to be up and about as much as possible to counteract all the sitting I do!

3:30pm: I research and read about the work other testers have done – it gives me ideas for my next tests.

5:30pm: Finish work. I might head to the gym or play Dungeons & Dragons with friends.

– Claire Harris

This article was brought to you in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It was originally published in our special edition of Careers with STEM: Cybersecurity. You can read the e-magazine for free online here.

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