It’s amazing how much of what we do depends on data and technology. In fact, the fabric of our society is now defined by the technology we use in our everyday lives.
With the explosive growth of the internet we have become much more digitally interconnected, and with the evolution of automation, Big Data and the Internet of Things, it continues to develop at an even greater rate. This interconnection provides great benefits and opportunities, but also greater threats, so we are more dependent than ever on having a secure digital environment to protect us from cybercrime.
Cybercrime has quickly risen to become a top-level national security priority across the globe. Increasing the security of data and reducing the impact of a network or database security breach are key challenges for cyber security specialists. As a result, the demand for cyber security professionals is on the rise and a skills shortage is predicted at the current rate of growth.
So how do you get into cyber security? And where can it take you? We spoke to John Murphy, a current Cyber Security and Forensics student at Murdoch University, to find out more.
How did you get into studying cyber security and what have you enjoyed about it so far?
I was looking for a good games design course and found Games Technology at Murdoch University. During my first semester, I completed a unit called ‘Internet security’, and it was all about hacking. We learnt about the different types of attacks, about viruses, trojans, rootkits, different attacks that have occurred in the past, and we even learned how they worked! It made me want to go back and re-watch Mr Robot.
We looked at the web traffic of a user and tried to find the password they used to authenticate to a website.
It made me feel like a hacker and a detective at the same time. I loved it. This semester, I have been learning how to gather a device from a crime scene and look through “permanently” deleted files for clues and evidence, not to catch hackers, but to help catch other criminals including murderers.
I had no idea this kind of thing was taught at uni and it was this moment that encouraged me to look if there was anything else with a hacking/detective feel to it. Then I came across Cyber Security and Forensics at Murdoch.
I can’t believe how many opportunities I had been given, but this year was the biggest. I was one of four people who represented Murdoch University in the EY Asia-Pacific Hackathon. We were flown to Hong Kong to compete against the top 10 teams in the final and our team came sixth.
All of our flights and accommodation were paid for and we had dinner with the creators of HackTheBox (a well-known CTF website in the hacker world), which was a great networking opportunity. This was an incredible experience I never thought would happen to me.
What have you found the most useful during your degree?
In my first year, I took advantage of all the things I was offered including meeting up weekly with mentors who were also students in their second or third year. They provided a lot of help and guidance, telling us about the things they struggled with and how to avoid falling into the same traps.
The Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) was another great resource I believe helped dramatically with achieving above-average results in the given units. These are also run by higher education students and provide a lot of great tips and guidance.
There are so many more things Murdoch offer that have been useful, such as 1TB free storage in OneDrive for the period of your degree, free Microsoft products including Windows 10, MS Office subscriptions the brand new computer labs in the IT Innovation Hub are available 24/7, which is great for project work.
Have you done any practical experience as part of your course and developed any links to potential employers?
In the start of my second year, speakers from the large oil and gas company Woodside came to our university. I went to the talk and ended up being invited to their open day. At the open day, I spoke to the Chief Information Security Officer who went onto to start up his own business that I have now worked in for over a year and a half. The company is called Slipstream Cyber Security. I fell right into this job in my second year at uni, I can’t even imagine the potential opportunities that could come once I graduate. Murdoch is always advertising available internships and amazing opportunities such as Google internships.
What do you hope to achieve at the end of your course/when you graduate?
I have always wanted to be someone who was doing good in the world. When I graduate, I would love the opportunity to work for a company such as the police force in their cyber department. Not only would this job be helping to catch criminals, I couldn’t imagine how interesting it would be day to day and how much I would continue to learn.
As a hobby, I think I’ll always be competing in hackathons and cyber challenges. Hopefully, I get good enough to win some competitions and possibly go on to educate younger students.
What’s your advice for high school students wanting to pursue a career in cyber security and forensics?
Cyber security offers so many different opportunities. If you are simply interested in hacking, there are jobs in cyber security where your job is to legally try to break into systems to help find areas that need to be fixed.
If you think of yourself as somewhat of a detective, then forensics involves looking through digital evidence to try to find clues to a murder or robbery or something else. There seems to be something for everyone in this field and for me personally, it is so interesting to learn about the machines we use every day, and how to protect ourselves from these criminals who are constantly trying to steal our identities, steal our money and shut our systems down.
Cyber security is such an interesting field that is forever changing. I can’t imagine ever being bored in this field of study and work and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in it.