Alana Maurushat is the Special Cyber Advisor for the cybercrime investigations firm IFW Global. She was in India for the launch of Western Sydney University’s (WSU) new Cyber security and Behaviour programme, which she teaches. It is the first cyber security degree in Australia and the Asia Pacific region that analayses both the technical and human side of cybersecurity. Students study units in computer science and behavioural sciences.
The course is especially pertinent with artificial intelligence (AI) being used as a weapon in perpitrating cybercrimes. “AI is being used to automate cybercrime — to survey networks, as well as to mimic human behaviour. Gone are the days of a lone hacker breaking into a system to steal a few credit cards. The use of AI to commit crime is the greatest cybersecurity threat in 2018,” says Prof. Maurushat.
She talks to EDGE in detail about the need for this course in today’s day and age, and the opportunities for Indian students.
What are the unique features of the programme?
We have long known that humans to be the weakest link in the security chain, yet few programmes teach beahvioural aspects of cybersecurity. Social engineering scams and malware have been designed specifically to play on vulnerable aspects of human behaviour. We teach human behavioural aspects of cybersecurity with a focus on learning the importance of user design, usable security, and how to secure networks with the fallibility of humans in mind.
What is the relevance of the programme especially for Indian students?
Australia and India have a shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers; in fact, there is a global shortage. This course is designed to be a hands-on practical course co-developed and taught with the industry, getting students ready for the workforce in as little time as possible is a priority. This means that students get to work on real cyber security problems, doing certifications and industry placements in the final year. Students have the option of being placed at industry organisations in Australia or India, or doing a special research project.
Who can ideally apply for the course?
Students looking to study with us need to have an excellent command over English, and an innovative mindset. Over 10,000 cybersecurity products are developed each year yet the threats continue to escalate. Cybersecurity isn’t simply a computer science problem. The course is designed for students from any background to come provided they have an open attitude towards learning computer science, are comfortable with learning statistics, and, most importantly, have a curious mindset and like to solve problems.
What are the career and research opportunities for Indian students in Australia after completing the course?
The career opportunities are excellent. Unlike in the U.K. and the U.S., students in Australia are eligible not only to work 20 hours per week while they study, additionally, they are allowed to work for two years after the completion of their studies. Many students, especially in areas where there is a shortage of skilled workers, are able to acquire permanent residency, allowing them to remain in Australia indefinitely. Starting salaries range from $80,000 to $100,000.
The research opportunities are even better. Most of our graduate level programmes including Masters and Ph.Ds are comprised predominantly of international students, especially those from India, Sri Lanka, and China. These countries produce exceptional math, computer science, and business students which makes them ideal candidates for graduate studies.
Scholarships for Indian students.
There are many scholarships available for Indian students, and they are also eligible for paid internships while they study. Their placements in third year, however, are not paid as they are part of the course work within the programme.