Here’s what it takes to be IT Security Rookie of the Year

Tailgating complete strangers into secure areas of sensitive office buildings, breaking into secure information systems and sweet-talking confidential staff details out of well-meaning receptionists over the phone are just some of the activities that have kept Christina Camilleri – a second-year uni student recognised as Information Security Rookie of the Year – busy since she recently began her career with information security giant BAE Systems Detica.

The peer-judged recognition came during the recent Australian Information Security Association (AISA) awards at the AISA conference on October 10 – and it was a complete surprise to Camilleri, who was nominated by her colleagues after joining Detica’s team of over 200 information-security specialists.

In an industry where recruitment professionals lament the difficulties in getting adequate numbers of IT security staff, the enthusiasm of a young technologist like Camilleri – who began attending hacker events like Ruxcon and the “fun and crazy” DEFCON while still in high school – is an optimistic sign.

Her enthusiasm for information security proved infectious when she met a BAE Systems Detica representative at AISA’s 2012 conference, when she was not even finished with the first year of Computer Science studies she is now undertaking at the University of Sydney.

“I was talking with them about my interest in the industry and how I wanted to gain some experience, and they took me on board,” she told CSO Australia. “It’s a wonderful industry and I’m really fortunate.”

Apart from working four days a week and going to uni on the fifth day, Camilleri regularly organises Capture the Flag hacking competitions and has started security groups amongst her peers: “I get involved in whatever I can.”

Her contagious enthusiasm stems back to a childhood where she “liked taking things apart,” she laughed. “I always built my own computers and took things apart, and sometimes I couldn’t put things back together again.”

Working with penetration-testing teams at BAE Systems Detica, Camilleri has developed a particular interest in social engineering – and has been involved in numerous instances where the firm will test a client’s IT and physical security.

In far too many cases, that security comes up lacking: “It’s always a good challenge,” she said. “People are the weakest link in security, and working out how they think and respond really interests me.

“A lot of companies don’t educate their employees really well about how to respond [to enquiries], and it’s surprising how willing they are to hand over that information. You’d be amazed how weakly some systems are secured, and it’s always fun to find vulnerabilities.”

She’s still trying out the many aspects of information security industry, but Camilleri is keen to pursue her interest in physical security, forensics and social engineering as she continues to build her career. “It’s such a broad field that I’m really just getting a feel for everything,” she said.

BAE Systems Detica was chuffed about Camilleri’s award win, which Asia Pacific and Middle East managing director Richard Watson said “demonstrated her passion for the industry by attending conferences and participating in social engineering competitions while still at high school and in her first year-and-a-half at university.

“Christina has already made a massive contribution to the team at BAE Systems Detica,” he said, “and it is obvious to her clients and colleagues that she has a very promising career ahead of her in the information security industry.”

BAE Systems Detica was also recognised in the AISA awards, taking out the Information Security Employer of the Year category for the second time in a row.

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