I’m from New Zealand originally and have been living in Brisbane for about 9 years.
I’ve always loved computers. My first PC was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum which I used to hook into the TV. I’d write my own programmes from magazines. It hadn’t even occurred to me that you might be able to make a living out of what was essentially a hobby.
I went to University and studied electronics engineering while I was figuring out what I wanted to be. I thought I’d end up as a robotics engineer or mechanic.
So how did you end up in Cyber Security?
By accident – it’s a career that found me.
I’d done some freelancing and picked up a job working for a friend of mine who started one of the first ISP’s in New Zealand in the 90’s. Not many people knew what the internet was and we were connecting businesses with new wireless technologies. I was later hired by one of NZ’s first Data Security companies, EMS-Global providing remote access, content filtering and email security services.
We were acquired by Telecom NZ and I became part of a SecOps team – it was the first time a whole team had become responsible for information security. Cyber Security wasn’t really ‘a thing’ and people were more concerned about connectivity than confidentiality and integrity of data. IT security began to boom, and I’ve been riding that wave ever since!
Tell me about being an ethical hacker. How does that happen?
I’ve always loved to tinker with things, breaking them and putting them back together. This is the essence of a hacker; we like to understand how things function and look for ways to make them do things they weren’t designed to do and / or to make them perform more effectively.
How did you end up in Brisbane working for Equate?
The cyber community is pretty small and living in Auckland, I’d dealt with most of the Regional Vendors based out of Australia. I moved to Brisbane for a job with Suncorp about 8 years ago, then took Professional Services roles at Dimension Data and Telstra. I found the cookie cutter approach to Cyber a bit uninspiring. I really get my kicks by working with a whole range of technologies and teams to solve today’s technical problems for our Clients – this is when Equate became the place for me and I joined about 18 months ago.
Equate had the vision to understand what customers wanted and used technology to provide the right path for Clients, even if it meant being unconventional in the way things were crafted. Plus, they’re a really great team of people pushing boundaries to do what’s best for their Clients – what’s not to love!
What took you so long?
I didn’t think I was good enough for Equate. Imposter syndrome is something most people don’t talk about enough but for so many, it’s an everyday reality. There are so many people doing a great job but feeling incompetent or undervalued. I’m always teaching myself to overcome it, pushing myself to do public speaking / conference panels. It’s not something I’m comfortable with but it forces me to face my social anxieties and I love to share my knowledge to educate people in things they might not understand. It’s one of the reasons I really love mentoring.
What does a normal day look like for you?
There is no standard day for me, and that’s why I love what I do. In the world of Professional Services, I can be planning a project, designing and customising a deliverable, consulting with a customer to craft the right solution or programming a build against a Statement of Works.
Tell me about your other loves in life?
I really love gardening and building things. I built my own deck and make furniture. If I’m not doing that, I’ll be out on the water in our boat, fishing and cruising the waterways.
I’m an animal lover too. I have two dogs, both Beagles. One is a 10-year-old from Blenheim, NZ and the other adopted in Australia.
I’ve been with my partner for 20 years and she’s from New Zealand too. My family is of Dutch descent on Mum’s side with strong Indonesian links (she was born there) so I love the food combinations that has taught me over the years. I’m always partial to the Dutch pancakes, Poffertjes!
How was 2020 from a Client perspective?
When COVID-19 hit, very few were prepared and nobody could have foreseen what was coming. Those with Business Continuity Plans configured for remote working were ahead of the game. We had quite a few Clients already using Equate as a Managed Security service which enabled an easy transition to the ‘new normal’.
Do you have any predictions for the year ahead?
2020 was the tip of the iceberg. We saw a massive increase in vulnerabilities in security products themselves, and I think this will continue in 2021 and beyond.
Ransomware will become the norm for garden variety (for profit) attacks, but supply chain infiltration will be the next major attack vector in my opinion. We’ll also see a massive increase in individuals impacted by data breaches and the use of private information to elicit targeted ransomware campaigns.
The Zero trust framework will grow in importance as businesses realise that just because it looks like an authenticated user, doesn’t actually mean it is. We’re continuing to learn about and experience the latest technologies being used to impersonate identities. Zero trust will be the way we govern access to information.
The new rules are Question Everything. Trust Nobody.
Your top tips for cyber protection?
1 – Use a Password Manager and Multi-factor Authentication
2 – Patch all software
3 – Consider restricting applications and user privileges
4 – Don’t install untrusted software
5 – Use a closed ecosystem like Apple if you’re not tech savvy.
1 – Make Zero Trust part of your journey to the Cloud
2 – Reduce the need for and/or use of privileged access
3 – Enforce the use of Multi Factor Authentication
4 – Implement an external email banner, so users can identify and treat external email with caution
5 – Educate your users on how to protect themselves from common and emerging threats
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Listen – we tend to spend our time thinking about the next thing to say, instead of engaging and taking the time to understand everything the other person is sharing.
Don’t let perfect get in the way of good – perfectionism can be crippling – moving things along in a realistic way is more important.
What’s the biggest challenge the world is facing in your opinion?
The biggest world challenge we’re facing in my opinion is Climate Change. It really does scare me. This is right on us, right now. We’re leaving the planet in a really bad state. It gives us life and sustains us and we need to respect it in return before it’s too late. I’ve adapted my own life where I can; I eat a lot less meat, I eat and buy locally where I can. If everyone made a few small changes, we’d be well on the way to creating a better and more sustainable future for generations to come.