Keeping the baddies at bay

Cybersecurity is more than just preventing our smartphones and computers from being hacked. It’s also vital in the fight to secure public infrastructure. See what a career and cyber security salary could look like.

It’s a stormy winter’s night and crowds of people are battling fierce wind and rain in a rush to reach the comfort of their homes. Without warning the city is plunged into darkness. Trains come to a halt and chaos sweeps the streets. Carriages full of commuters are trapped in tunnels and drivers honk their horns in frustration. But this is no ordinary power failure. It is a targeted attack on the city’s infrastructure grid by cyber criminals. While this scenario sounds more like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, it could happen in real life.

It’s not just our infrastructure that’s vulnerable to cyber attacks. Everything that runs on software has the potential of being hacked. That means our phones, computers and bank accounts, but also the ever-increasing number of smart devices we use at home and in work. And with the rise of the ‘Internet Of Things’ that’s more problematic than ever. While you might not be too concerned about your smart fridge being hijacked, transforming your favourite ice cream into a sad puddle on the kitchen floor, what about the city’s water filtration plants? Or the equipment in hospitals keeping people alive?

Luckily, there are people all around the world doing their best to keep us safe from these kinds of threats. Welcome to the world cybersecurity; a world of ‘bug bounties’ and ‘black and white hat hackers’ battling like the forces of good and evil. A bug bounty program invites programmers to legally hack into companies. These programmers, sometimes called white hat hackers, are using their skills for good. Their job is to find security flaws (bugs) in the software so they can be fixed, making it harder for the destructive (black hat) hackers to exploit them.

Nathaniel Wakelam is one of these modern-day heroes, keeping our software safe. He taught himself to program at the age of 14 and by 18, he was legally hacking into businesses, earning enough money to pay his way through university.

“I like the challenge of breaking something, it’s like a big puzzle. And it’s exciting finding [a security flaw] because you’re the first person to discover it. You have to think like a criminal, but not want to be one.”

Working in security has opened many doors for him and now he wants to help others succeed. Nathaniel’s charity ‘Hackers Helping Hackers’ mentors young people on their journey to becoming security consultants, sending them to conferences and creating networks.

But cybersecurity isn’t all about hacking. Fatemah Beydoun, who runs her own company educating software developers in code security, is quick to point out how diverse the field is. “There are so many different roles, from forensics to awareness managers. And we need people with all kinds of skills to fill them.” The cyber security salary can be generous too, up to $150,000* for senior positions.

If you are interested in computers, but also like marketing and communications, you might make a great awareness manager, educating people on cyber safety. Or if you’re torn between computers and law, why not combine both to become a policy compliance officer? The opportunities are endless and all you need is a little imagination and the willingness to learn to find an exciting career that suits your skills.

– Anna Koefer

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Cyber security salary

Graduate in the IT/Cyber and Information Security Specialists Pathway, Australian Signals Directorate: from $74,000*

Security analyst: $54,000-$120,000

Senior security consultant: $88,000-$150,000
*Cyber security salary according to

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Bachelor of Computing and Cyber Security, UNSW Canberra at ADFA

Bachelor of Science (Computer Science), UNSW Sydney

Bachelor of Cyber Security, Deakin University

Master of Cyber Security, RMIT University

Advanced Diploma in Network Security, TAFE QLD

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Introduction to Cybersecurity,, edX

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.


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