Investing in the next generation of cyber security talent

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Cyber security is a rapidly growing industry and a burgeoning partnership between AUT’s Department of Information Technology & Software Engineering and leading cyber security solutions distributor Chillisoft is helping to ensure New Zealand develops the talent pool it needs to protect against cybercrime.

For four years, Chillisoft has partnered with global IT security solutions developer ESET to offer two annual awards to deserving AUT students. In 2019, that support has amplified, with the introduction of the Chillisoft-ESET Cyber Security Scholarship to support academically talented students studying towards a Master of Information Security and Digital Forensics at AUT. In addition to financial support in the form of a $5,000 grant, the scholarship extends out to mentorship opportunities and the gifting of ESET EDR digital forensics licences to AUT lecturers and students.

Chillisoft CEO Alex Teh says New Zealand is crying out for talented cyber security professionals, and sponsoring AUT is a key component of the organisation’s strategy to strengthen, and give back to, the New Zealand cyber security community.

“Here at Chillisoft we love the idea of investing in the next generation of exciting new cyber security talent,” says Teh.

“It’s a well-known fact that our industry lacks the right type of resources to perform the analytics work required for cyber security incidents. AUT’s Master of Information Security and Digital Forensics has immense potential to produce talent that our industry can use.”

While the $5,000 scholarship will undoubtedly make life easier for the recipient, Teh says the other aspects of the scholarship are just as, if not more, far-reaching.

“We believe that we will be better aligned to our longer-term goals by providing more than just financial support.

“Through mentoring we are able to work with young talented individuals that can foster future talent for our community. In the cyber security world, trust is a major factor when companies look to hire candidates as we are often dealing with very sensitive information. This trust can only be earned from experience and face-to-face relationships. We aim to support these scholarship recipients not only financially, but also, for example, with access to our business contacts so they may get a chance to be successful not just in their studies, but also in their working career.”

That’s music to the ears of inaugural scholarship recipient Nicole Girvan, who is keen to investigate how the technology that is enabling cybercrime will shape the future landscape, and how cyber security professionals can influence that situation for good.

“I decided to do my Master of Information Security and Digital Forensics to extend the knowledge and experience I already had in IT into a more technical domain,” she says.  “Seeing the rise of cybercrime impacting vulnerable people such as children, teens and the elderly drove me to want to understand how this can be combatted.”

Girvan teaches IT and works part-time as an Incident Response Analyst helping companies respond to cyber events. Juggling two jobs and a toddler with her AUT studies – and still managing to get a straight A+ on every paper – is no mean feat, and she says the scholarship is hugely beneficial.

“It allows me personally to continue pursuing the area of research that I am passionate about and also has wider meaning, as it demonstrates the importance of education and research in cyber security and forensics and the commitment industry is making to support this.”

AUT Senior Lecturer Stephen Thorpe has been a driving force in developing the partnership with Chillisoft and ESET and says their sponsorship has proved invaluable to AUT’s School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

“Awards like this are a great way to showcase our sensational talent, our industry-aligned programmes and to lift the reputation of the university and its wider research contribution,” says Thorpe.

“We would love more industry to support our students by partnering with the university in this amazing way.”

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