THE FUTURE OF CYBERSECURITY: Decoded
Date of Publish: 5 December 2019
Many people will either not take the ambition of a 14-year-old seriously or completely dismiss it. Unsurprisingly, my parents were among these naysayers. But with my passion, perseverance and determination, I have proven everyone wrong.
What Made Me Fall in Love with Cybersecurity: Again and AgainThese days, it is no secret that everybody wants to join cybersecurity to secure a good, promising future. However, my motivation to join the industry stems from a different place.
THE BEGINNINGS OF MY LOVE FOR ALL THINGS TECH
AL: As a kid, I was always intrigued by all the cool thingamajigs that superheroes like Ultraman and Power Rangers use to fight off evil monsters and do good. Fast forward to two years ago, I decided that while I probably cannot become a superhero, I could come up with gadgets that even superheroes would be proud to use.
TASTING FIRST FRUITS OF SUCCESS
WINNING OVER OBJECTIONS
AL: Deciding to pursue this interest more seriously, I shared with my parents my intention to enrol in Diploma in Information Technology. Doubtful of my technical ability, they were unsupportive. Unfazed, I registered for Google Code In; an annual international competition incepted in 2010. I eventually emerged as one of 54 Grand Prize Winners; out of over 3,000 participants from 77 countries; to be invited to Googles Headquarters in Mountain View, California for a fully sponsored trip; I am also Singapores third youngest person to win the competition. Most importantly, I earned my parents support!
DISCOVERING A PASSION FOR CYBERSECURITY
AL: Around this time, I read an article about network security and got curious. That led to my learning to crack my own Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) password, analysing network packets and protecting myself from WAP attacks. My newfound knowledge that there are at least a dozen of different attack vectors and nearly an infinite number of ways to exploit these vectors was both an amazing and an intriguing realisation. I love the idea that there are new systems to be protected and new solutions to be found every day; no day is the same. I changed course to pursue a Diploma in Information Security Management instead.
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CYBERSECURITY LEARNING
AL: Earlier this year, things took a more serious turn when my schools computing teacher signed me up for the June 2019 edition of the Youth Cyber Exploration Programme (YCEP). It is the biggest one yet, with participation from all five polytechnics and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) hosting the Central Capture-the-Flag (CCTF) competition.
Leading up to the Capture-the-Flag (CTF) competition at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), I had an exciting three days: learning about Attack-Defense, Cryptography, Cyber Kill Chains and more from studentlecturers at SP who were enthusiastic, engaging and knowledgeable about the contents. Then came the CTF competition. While my prior HackNTU experience came in handy, we still got stuck now and then. Each time, we would discuss, experiment and look for similar test cases online; the dynamism in cybersecurity is just incredible!
After coming in second in the competition, our team was selected to proceed on to the CCTF competition; wow! CCTF was a level up and we had to learn SQL injection, new tools and file upload vulnerabilities. In the end, although we did not win in the Teams category, I came in first in the Individuals category. More significantly, the experience was enriching; I had learnt to be a better person, a better team player and a better hacker.
TAKING CYBERSECURITY LEARNING TO THE NEXT LEVEL
AL: Thanks to YCEP, I have gained a better understanding of the small but growing community and found people sharing the same passion for cybersecurity. I have also made many new friends, networked with fellow participants, mentors and lecturers whom I have kept in touch with.
The latest development is that I have received my Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) confirmation and am accepted by SP for the Diploma in Infocomm Security Management. I still have a long way to go in cybersecurity. But by taking a piece of every pie; network security, website security and application security, I hope to find my specialisation in the next three years. Perhaps I will, perhaps I will not. However, one thing is for sure: I love and I will be in cybersecurity.
PUTTING CYBERSECURITY CAREERS IN PERSPECTIVE
AL: If you are considering to join cybersecurity because it is popular now, do not. But if you are genuinely passionate about security, and defending systems that everyone uses every day, then you should join programmes like YCEP; go for them, go for every one of them, you will learn more than you expect. You should also continue learning outside of these programmes. The journey may not be easy, but it will be fun; I am having fun.