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What it’s really like to be a cyber security analyst

Student and Academic working in ECU Computer Lab
ECU has one of the longest-established cyber security courses in the country.

The cyber security industry is poised to replace the mining sector as the source of the next jobs boom in Australia.

The shortage of trained cyber security professionals is estimated at 33,000 and expected to grow. And it’s not hard to see why.

The average family home has nine internet-connected devices and counting. Cyber crime continues to be a lucrative option for criminals, costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion annually.

Dr Peter Hannay from ECU’s School of Science and Security Research Institute, says cyber-crime is rife and getting worse.

“It’s a huge problem. There are lots of bad people out there doing bad things. Hacking into a computer is a great way for criminals to make easy money and that’s why there’s a huge demand for security experts,” he says.

What does a cyber security analyst do?

ECU was one of the first universities in Australia to offer cyber security studies. In the Bachelor of Science (Cyber Security), students learn both the theoretical and practical aspects of IT security.

This includes network security, information security, digital forensics, wireless device security and database security.

In addition, the course is designed to meet the changing landscape of secure computing, which involves not only computers, but also telecommunications networks and network-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablet devices.

The course also covers legislation surrounding internet data and the mechanisms of laptops and electronic devices and how they work.

“This degree in cyber security would suit people who are curious and who have an interest in IT. If you’re the type of person who notices in a shopping mall that a security camera system has dead spots, and recognise that problem, then this is the course and career for you,” Dr Hannay explains.

Two students working in an ECU Computer Lab
ECU has been named as one of only two Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence in Australia.

More data means more jobs

The number of financial transactions being made over the internet continues to grow and personal record are increasingly stored online. As a result, both commercial and government organisations are always looking for experts in this field.

“At the moment worldwide, we have in excess of one million vacant cyber security jobs, that’s based on research done by the network hardware company CISCO, and it’s expected to grow substantially year on year.

“This sort of work commands the highest median salary in the IT sector, which is $117,000,” Dr Hannay says.

Common IT myths

There’s a common misconception that those working on internet security sit at a laptop in a dark room by themselves.

But Associate Professor Paul Haskall-Dowland, who lectures in Computing and Security at ECU, says it’s a career which now involves plenty of collaboration with others.

“There is interaction on computers, doing intrusion detection, but some of these tasks are becoming automated, so our graduates are increasingly likely to meet and talk with people and lead training.”

ECU’s Bachelor of Science (Cyber Security) course was developed in close consultation with industry. Ongoing input from employers means students learn what is currently in demand and is of relevance to industry today.

Another myth is that cyber security is only for those interested in computers. But graduates also find employment within police forces and in forensic teams, so it may also be of interest to those who like psychology.

Meeting future challenges

Cyber security graduate Dennis Bothur says ECU’s facilities were outstanding and the skills acquired have helped build his confidence.

“I am a much more efficient communicator, I can engage with scientists and translate highly technical vocabulary into something digestible and understandable. Having studied this course, I have become a better critical thinker and problem solver,” he says.

The future for this industry looks bright.

“Looking ten years ahead, there’ll be different threats which don’t exist now. So, it’s unpredictable which makes it an exciting and varied career,” Professor Haskell-Dowland says.

“The skills you need to be a cyber criminal and the skills you need to be a cyber security analyst are similar, but one will end you up in prison and the other will give you a good retirement,” Dr Hannay adds.

“Being a cyber security analyst is a lucrative career.”

Want to learn more?

For more information about becoming a cyber security analyst, check out the Bachelor of Science (Cyber Security) course page.


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