Cybersecurity: It's about when, not if

In our increasingly connected world cybersecurity is more important than ever - a fact that is becoming more apparent as our dependence on the internet grows and prolific attacks consistently make the front page.

This week we stepped away from sensationalist headlines to the reality of the situation with some very switched on experts in the field.

The reality of cybersecurity

We kicked off the week with a trip to Unitec to visit the Cyber Security Research Centre. As the first of its kind in the country, the centre has become a focal point for cybersecurity research in New Zealand.

Professor Hossein Sarrafzadeh, Unitec Head of Computing and co-director of the centre, introduced us to some of the team and the work the lab is doing, including advancing threat detection, computational intelligence for cybersecurity, and mitigating fall-out of security breaches.

We also got a peek into Unitec's Smart Lab, where researchers are exploring and developing various technologies and tools around intelligent algorithms and machine learning. The team shared their work on noise cancellation technology, voice software for people with disabilities, and identity recognition tools that go beyond facial features.

Back at the Tech Futures Lab headquarters, the candidates had sessions with Laura Bell and Erica Anderson, two industry experts we work with here at Tech Futures Lab.

Between them, Erica and Laura proved to demystify cybersecurity and get rid of the over-technical vagueness that tends to attach itself to this topic.

The group looked at risk; threat agents and actors, otherwise known as the people behind the attacks; compliance and operation from a realistic point of view; how to grow a company so it is scalable; and the human component - our biases and behaviours and how this plays into security.

Each session added to the overall theme that security isn't something that exists in isolation and needs to be viewed holistically.

Joining Erica and Laura were guest speakers from a range of different backgrounds.

First off the bat was Matt Olsen, Senior Manager of Cyber from EY, followed by Emily Wang, Datacom Principle Architect, and Peter Bailey, General Manager from Aura Information Security.

Matt Olsen looked at how cybersecurity is evolving and what's happening in regards to the Internet of Things, cyber insurance, the shift to as-a-service offerings and targets to the financial services sector.

Emily Wang leads a mobile innovation team and has a keen focus on cybersecurity. With Emily we learnt about app development, the importance of being fluid when the threat landscape is growing rapidly, and the bigger picture of disruption.

Finishing up our cybersecurity week was Peter Bailey from Aura. He talked our candidates through security from a business standpoint, highlighting recent attacks on NZ soil and beyond, and how the threat landscape is developing.

Virtual reality, thought-controlled software and drones

Our Tech News morning sessions saw our candidates having fun with virtual reality headsets and Thought-Wired's brainwave-controlled software, as well as having a lively conversation about the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on women for International Women's Day.

We also found out more about drones and the reality of the application of this tech with Geoff Lamb and Cameron Baker of Yamaha Motor New Zealand. The pair brought their RMAX drone to the Tech Futures Lab headquarters so we could see the device up close and personal.

For our Fireside Chats we welcomed in Francis Kaitano, IAG Information Security Manager, who shared his insights into securing an organisation, the importance of digital trust, and the significance of culture.

We also had a session with Anna Campbell, Chief People Officer of The Warehouse Group, about the future of work and the retail space. She gave us a view into how this industry is being radically disrupted and how the organisation is responding.

Gathering evidence and fleshing out ideas

At this stage of the course our candidates are focused on gathering evidence to understand their target market and research their project idea further. This week the group met with their advisor and discussed their research process and key findings.

Next week marks the halfway point of the first 12 weeks of the course and will see our candidates presenting their evidence to the group, while also learning about the core topic of Machine Learning and AI.

We'll keep you up to date with what's happening at Tech Futures Lab on our social media sites and our blog. If you want to know more about the programme, get in touch with the team.


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Tech Futures Lab is an education facility of The Mind Lab, a NZQA registered Tertiary Education Organisation under the provisions of the Education Act 1989. Candidates who are studying on a programme delivered by Tech Futures Lab are enrolled with The Mind Lab.

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