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Why the demand for cybercrime specialists is unparalleled

The internet enables countless positives: ease of communication, global exchange of information, prompt delivery of Uber Eats on a lazy Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the age of interconnection also enables certain crimes to flourish.

The rapid growth of cybercrime has created unparalleled opportunities for those with cyber security expertise. With an estimated 3.5 million job openings predicted for 2021, you’d be hard-pressed to find a domain where appropriately qualified specialists are more in demand.

Tackling the often unchartered territory of cybercrime requires a multidisciplinary approach, and professionals are entering the space from a range of perspectives. Criminology and cyber security are two specialisations that form pieces of the cybercrime puzzle.

Associate Professor Chad Whelan, Associate Head of School (Teaching and Learning) in Deakin University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, teaches across many areas of criminology. Professor Matthew Warren is a Professor of Cyber Security teaching Deakin’s School of Information Technology. Both are enthused about the exciting careers available in cybercrime.

What does cybercrime look like?

According to Assoc. Prof. Chad Whelan, crimes that are being committed online or via technologies vary considerably. He explains the difference between technology-enabled crimes and technology-dependant crimes.

Technology-enabled crimes

‘Technology-enabled crimes are those that are enhanced in some way by digital technology or Information Communication Technology (ICT). These are crimes that are often able to be committed offline or without technology but are enhanced by their use of technology. They include pretty much every crime category including ordinary crime like theft, robbery and burglary.’

Examples include digital card readers on ATMs or even romance scams, which are attracting a lot of media attention. ‘These did exist in other ways before the existence of the internet. It has just enhanced their ability to scale,’ Assoc. Prof Whelan says. ‘They now have tens of thousands of people that they can target whereas previously they had to target smaller groups with more manual means.’

‘A lot of these offenses were able to be committed irrespective of the technology but technology has made it easier to commit those crimes or it has made it harder for the offenders to get caught as they are using the technology to evade detections.

Technology-dependent crimes

Technology-dependent crimes are a little different, Assoc. Prof. Whelan explains. ‘If you were to essentially “kill” the internet and remove it from the world these crimes would cease to exist.’

Examples of these are more ‘advanced’ cybercrimes, he explains: ‘hacking or computer intrusions, malicious malware, ransomware, etc. They are more sophisticated criminal offences.’

Prof. Warren says the global context and complexity involved in cybercrime makes it an interesting area to focus on. ‘Criminal gangs can be very well-structured and very professional in their activities and cybercrime can be very different to traditional crime as the gangs operate in a global environment.’

'If you were to essentially “kill” the internet and remove it from the world these (technology-dependent) crimes would cease to exist.'

Assoc. Prof. Chad Whelan,
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

The critical thinking of a criminology approach

Where cyber security specialists tend to focus more on technology-dependant crimes, criminologists focus on the broad spectrum of technology-enabled and dependant crimes. Assoc. Prof. Whelan says that when it comes to cyber security, criminologists are in demand for their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

One area of interest for criminologists is addressing the difficulties of accurately reporting and recording cyber offenses. ‘We’ve introduced a couple mechanisms to try to capture more of the offending that is going on. There is a system called the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network where individuals can log on and report any instance where they have been scammed or victimised.’

‘Criminology graduates will be able to have incredibly interesting careers working across many agencies in the public sector and there are international agencies and organisations looking for these sets of knowledge and skills in many parts of the world,’ says Assoc. Prof. Whelan.

Think criminology sounds like you? Check out Deakin’s Bachelor of Criminology.

The technical focus of a cyber security approach

Prof. Warren says that cyber security specialists focus on the technical aspects of cyber security from an organisational and technological perspective.

Cyber security specialists could be people with skills in digital forensics who are able to investigate where the cybercrime has occurred. It could be people with expertise in penetration testing. Often referred to as ethical hackers, what they do is try to break into an organisation’s systems to determine where there are weaknesses.’

‘There are also people in cyber security areas such as network security, security risk analysis in government, and cyber security policy development. There is a big demand in the security consultancy area for specialists that understand the technical issues and are able to relate that in a business context as well.’

Think cyber security sounds like you? Check out Deakin’s Bachelor of Cyber Security.

'There is a big demand in the security consultancy area for specialists that understand the technical issues and are able to relate that in a business context as well.'

Professor Matthew Warren,
School of Information Technology, Deakin University

Choosing a side or combining both

Many who are interested in entering this field find they are more cognitively suited to one or the other discipline, explains Assoc. Prof. Whelan.

‘Those that are naturally good with working with code, for instance, are not always naturally good at writing and thinking critically,’ he says.

‘And those in criminology with a social science background are not necessarily naturally suited to working with code and learning the ins and outs of IT. But those students who successfully pursue this pathway will develop a skillset that is increasingly sought after in many parts of the world.’

For others, combining studies in both cyber security and criminology provides the best introduction to this emerging industry.

Prof. Warren says of the Deakin Bachelor of Criminology/Bachelor of Cyber Security, ‘Industry is very keen to recruit our double degree students with criminology and cyber security. They have a very strong technical base along with the problem solving ability and “soft skills” so they are very good at things like presenting and writing reports.’

Whether students chose criminology, cyber security or combined the two, the opportunities are endless. With a boom in job growth, you can’t go wrong.

‘All industries are realising the importance of cyber security and having the appropriate professionals within their organisations,’ Prof. Warren concludes.

Learn more about Deakin’s Bachelor of Criminology and Bachelor of Cyber Security.

this. featured experts
Associate Professor Chad Whelan
Associate Professor Chad Whelan

Associate Head of School (Teaching and Learning), School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

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Professor Matthew Warren
Professor Matthew Warren

Professor of Cyber Security, School of Information Technology, Deakin University

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