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On the digital frontline – Cyber security careers in Defence

Technology connects us all, but also makes us vulnerable to cyber attacks. That’s why Defence needs people with super cyber skills!

Defending our country used to be all about land, sea and air. But the digital age has changed all that. Now, threats can also find us online. In 2022, we saw some huge hacks targeting companies like Optus and Medibank – so Defence takes cyber security very seriously.

In 2017, Defence formed the Information Warfare Division (IWD) to combat digital threats to Australia’s interests. Information warfare – also called cyberspace or electronic warfare – is all about using computer networks to attack the other side. This can include the theft of sensitive 

information, blocking signals or taking control of infrastructure via a network. The IWD brings together the Australian Defence Force in a united effort to protect against these attacks.

Army signals officers, Navy information officers and Air Force cyberspace warfare officers lead technical teams and create plans for successful missions. Cyber analysts employ their digital forensics skills and knowledge to help detect, prevent and fight cyber attacks.

At the operational level, network technicians and systems operators keep everything running smoothly so that missions can be completed. It’s all part of a day’s work as a Defence service member! 

Career profile: Communications science specialist

Growing up, Catisha was fascinated by science and maths. She knew she wanted a career in STEM, so she studied biochemistry and statistics at university. But when she graduated, she wanted to try something new and “tackle real-life problems”. That’s when she found the DSTG graduate program and it was the perfect fit.

Now, as a communications science specialist at DSTG, she analyses computer network data to identify cyber security problems and help address them. 

“I love my role because I have the opportunity to learn lots of new skills and tackle lots of different problems, and feel like I’m making a difference,” says Catisha.

One of her favourite projects so far has been working with machine learning – a field she’d never explored before joining DSTG: “It has been a lot of fun to learn and develop new skills in a research area that is developing so rapidly.”

Catisha’s advice for anyone interested in pursuing a Defence career? 

“Always be willing to try something new! You never know what might become a new passion.”

She’s also a big fan of sticking with maths to broaden your STEM career horizons: “Learning as much mathematics as you can in both high school and university is a great way to keep your options open.”

Opportunities for cyber students (and the cyber-curious!)

The ADF’s Cyber Gap Program gives uni and TAFE students the chance to work with mentors, learn new skills, complete challenges, attend the Defence Cyber Conference and more! You can be studying any cyber qualification from Cert III up, and the best bit is they’ll even pay your course fees for the year! More information here.

ASD CyberEXP is another cool resource. This interactive online experience puts you in the shoes of a cyber professional responding to a real-life scenario. It’s free and anyone can have a go! ASD also offers summer internships for uni students, as well as high school work experience placements, at the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Research roles

The world of cyber warfare is always changing. To help us keep up, researchers are busy working behind the scenes on the latest technology. For example, DSTG developed a technology called Shapes Vector that can analyse the security of large computer networks. 

The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) also does important cyber research.
It’s one of the two campuses of the UNSW Institute for Cyber Security (IFCYBER). If a research career is on your radar, it could be here!

Where could you work?

  • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
  • Defence Science & Technology Group (DSTG)
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO)
  • Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO)
  • Defence’s Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG)
  • Office of National Intelligence (ONI)

Defence + Cyber security study

  • Bachelor of Computing & Cyber Security, UNSW (ADFA)
  • Bachelor of Computer Science (Cyber Security)
  • Bachelor of Science (Cyber Security)
  • Bachelor of Software Engineering (Cyber Security)
  • Certificate IV in Cyber Security

Defence + Cyber security jobs

  • Navy Cyber Operator$79,452*
  • Navy Information Warfare Officer: $80,857*
  • Air Force Cyberspace Warfare Analyst: $79,555*
  • Air Force Network Technician: $75,451*
  • Army Electronic Warfare Operator: $79,452*
  • Army Cyber Analyst: $79,452*
  • APS Cyber Security Researcher APS Level 3: $62,863–$69,265
  • ASD Cyber Security Analyst ASD Level 4: $71,919–$98,768

Source: defencejobs.gov.au/jobs/, apsjobs.gov.au/s/

*Pay on completion of initial military training and initial employment training

This article was first published in Careers with STEM: Defence 2023. For more on Defence careers, head to our STEM + Defence hub!

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