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We’ve compiled this list of questions most frequently asked about Cyber Security to help you understand what it’s like to carve out a career as a Cyber Security Professional.

Already know you’d like to study Cyber Security? Get in touch with our Course Advisors to discuss training options, and check out the upcoming intake dates here.

Cyber Security and why it’s important

What is Cyber Security?

Did you know the time people spend online has increased by 5% in the last three years alone? For cyber criminals, our shared love for living and carrying out our business online brings with it endless opportunities to exploit our data and assets. 

Cyber Security is a process aimed at stopping, or at least drastically reducing the risk of cyber crime. This is achieved by using software, tech, countermeasures and controls to defend devices, systems, networks and data against the threat of cyber criminals.  

How do businesses use Cyber Security?

Any business with online infrastructure should aim to implement a strong cyber security strategy, which usually consists of different layers of protection to defend against all kinds of cyber crime. 

More so than ever, modern businesses face the threat of attacks that are designed to access, change or destroy data, extort money, or disrupt its day-to-day business operations.

Several high-profile breaches of data in Australia involving Optus and Telstra have highlighted the need for businesses to protect any digital information it creates and stores, especially information collected from customers. The Optus and Telstra attacks resulted in the disclosure of private customer Information, including email addresses, Medicare card details and driver’s licence and passport numbers. 

It can take a business decades to build and maintain customer trust – trust which can be lost in the blink of an eye if a database is compromised and sensitive information leaked. As well as protecting valuable assets, Cyber Security is an ongoing PR exercise that allows a business to protect its priceless public image.  

What does a Cyber Security Professional actually do?

In the simplest terms, a Cyber Security Professional is responsible for planning and implementing security measures that protect devices, computer networks and systems from cyber attacks. 

Cyber Security Professionals normally work within IT teams, with a primary goal of defending organisational systems and data. In the digital age, the integrity of a business will often hinge on how well fortified its networks and systems are, which has resulted in Cyber Security becoming an indispensable department in businesses of all sizes.

A Cyber Security Professional’s day-to-day work will vary greatly from one role to the next, but typical tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Performing risk assessments and security analysis
  • Developing security systems
  • Scanning network devices
  • Gathering cyber threat intelligence
  • Identifying vulnerabilities through ‘grey hat hacking’ 
  • Recommending best practices for improving security posture
  • Keeping colleagues updated on emerging cyber threats and delivering training on new protocols
  • Managing best practices for incident responses 
  • Delivering verbal and written reports to management and stakeholders

Types of cyber attacks

Brace yourself for a scary fact – an average of 185 cybercrime reports are made in Australia every day. That’s more than 1 report every 10 minutes!

It won’t surprise you to learn that hackers are extremely creative when it comes to finding inventive new ways to gain illegal access to our data, networks and online assets. 

Here’s a simple breakdown of some of the most common forms of cyber attack that today’s Cyber Security Professionals have to contend with:     


As one of the most common forms of cyber attack, phishing involves sending fraudulent emails that claim to be from legitimate companies. Phishing emails are used to convince people to disclose personal information, such as passwords and bank details. Believe it or not, over 3.4 billion phishing emails are sent each day, which amounts to more than a trillion throughout the course of a year.   


Short for malicious software, malware is a file, program or piece of code that’s designed to damage or gain unauthorised access to a computer system. Users are tricked into installing malware on their computer or device. Once it’s been integrated, malware can be coded to perform just about any malicious activity that a hacker desires. 


This is a particular type of malware that’s used by cybercriminals to block a user’s access to a computer system. Hacker’s won’t reinstate the user’s access until ransom money is paid. Ransomware hackers will also threaten the publication of private data unless ransom money is handed over. 


This is a form of malicious program or code that’s designed to easily spread from one device to another. A virus attaches itself to a normal, non-malicious program to execute its code and usually results in data being stolen, corrupted or wiped. Every day, an independent IT security institute called AVTest examines and registers over 450,000 new forms of virus.  


A trojan is a form of malware that downloads onto your computer disguised as a legitimate program. The delivery method typically sees an attacker use social engineering to conceal malicious code within innocuous-looking software to gain access to the user’s system and software.

A trojan typically gets hidden as an attachment in an email or a free-to-download file. Once downloaded, the trojan will execute the task the attacker designed it for, such as gaining backdoor access to corporate systems, spying on online activity, or stealing sensitive data.


This is a type of malware that hides on your device and serves you targeted advertisements. If this sounds relatively harmless, keep in mind that some forms of adware will also monitor your online behaviour, gather data without your permission and even hijack your browser. If that’s not enough of a headache, there are also versions of adware that will install further malware on your computer or device.


This involves a hacker secretly intercepting and relaying messages between two parties who believe they are communicating directly with each other. Hackers will often insert themselves into the conversation, pretending to be the legitimate organisation or person the victim is trying to communicate with. As a type of eavesdropping, this often results in the victim passing on sensitive information to the attackers, such as financial details or login credentials. 

Types of Cyber Security

Network security

For most organisations, a well protected network is their first line of defence. Network security covers a multitude of technologies, devices and processes. Understood in the simplest terms, it is a set of rules and configurations designed to protect the integrity, confidentiality and accessibility of computer networks and data, relying on both software and hardware.

Network security consists of three forms of control: physical, technical and administrative.

  • Physical network security is designed to prevent unauthorised personnel from gaining physical access to network components, including computers, routers and so forth. Controlled access, such as locks, passcodes and biometric authentication are essential in any large online organisation.
  • Technical network security protects data that is stored on a network, or which is moving in, through or out of a network. Protection is twofold; it needs to protect data and systems from unauthorised personnel, and it also needs to protect against malicious activities performed by employees.
  • Administrative network security consists of security policies and processes that control user behaviour, including how users are authenticated, their level of access and also how IT staff are able to implement changes to the network infrastructure.

In their attempts to secure a network, organisations will often implement network access controls, antivirus and antimalware software, firewalls and virtual private networks (which allow employees to establish a secure connection with the network when they’re working offsite). 

As a subset of network security, cloud security is designed to protect cloud-based infrastructure, applications, and data. Cloud security measures ensure user authentication and data access control. 

With the rising popularity of the cloud, many servers are now regularly accessed through the internet, which leaves large databases vulnerable to attack. As a result, cloud security is a form of Cyber Security that’s quickly growing in importance. 

Systems security

If hackers manage to penetrate your network, the next layer of protection comes in the form of systems security. The objective of systems security is to safeguard information and digital assets from theft, corruption and other types of damage, while allowing the information and property to remain accessible and useful to employees. 

Systems security includes the development and implementation of security countermeasures. There are a number of different approaches to systems security, including the use of a firewall, data encryption and multi-factor authentication. 

On a more granular level, operating system security refers to specific steps or measures used to defend the operating systems of singular devices from viruses, worms, malware or remote hacker threats. OS security often involves:

  • Performing regular OS patch updates
  • Installing updated antivirus engines and software
  • Directing all incoming and outgoing network traffic through a firewall
  • Creating secure accounts with limited access only (i.e., user management)
  • Setting up remote locking for lost or stolen devices


Cryptography is the art of keeping information secure by translating it into a form that unintended recipients cannot understand. In cryptography, readable data and information, referred to as plaintext, is changed by means of an algorithm into something that appears to be gibberish, referred to as ciphertext.

In order to read cryptographic data, the ciphertext must first be transformed back into plaintext. This is an action that only the intended recipient or rightful owner can perform and usually requires a key. As a form of encryption that renders hacked data useless, cryptography can be an organisation’s last line of defence against a breach. 

Types of cyber security infographic

Cyber Security techniques

Penetration testing

Penetration testing (often referred to as pen testing) is a simulated cyber attack that’s used to identify exploitable vulnerabilities. In the context of web application security, penetration testing is normally used to check the resistance of a web application firewall (WAF).

Penetration testing can involve the attempted breach of any number of systems, including application protocol interfaces (APIs) and front-end and back-end servers. This can uncover weak spots before hackers find them, such as unsanitized inputs that are susceptible to code injection.

Insights provided by penetration testing can be used to fine-tune an organisation’s security policies and patch any detected vulnerabilities.

Threat intelligence

Threat intelligence is the process of identifying and analysing cyber threats. The term ‘threat intelligence’ can refer to the data collected concerning a potential threat, or the process of gathering and analysing that data. Threat intelligence involves sifting through data, examining it contextually and deploying specific solutions to problems in advance.

Threat intelligence tends to look at the bigger picture of cyber crime. By interrogating threat data, its broader context and constructing a narrative, it’s possible to make well-informed Cyber Security decisions. 

Hackers get smarter by the day. To keep up, Cyber Security Professionals share successful tactics and any patterns in hacker behaviour they’ve noticed with others in the cyber community, creating a pool of useful knowledge. In essence, threat intelligence encourages organisations to be proactive, rather than reactive, in the ongoing fight against cyber crime.

Cyber kill chain

The cyber kill chain is a model invented by Lockheed Martin that traces the stages of a cyber attack, flags vulnerabilities, and helps cyber security teams to prevent attacks at every stage in the chain.

The term ‘kill chain’ is adopted from the military, which uses it to break down the structure of an attack. According to the cyber kill chain, there are eight stages in a cyber attack: 

  • Stage 1: Reconnaissance

The observation stage: attackers typically assess the situation from the outside-in, in order to identify weak spots and tactics.

  • Stage 2: Intrusion

Based on what the attackers discovered in the reconnaissance phase, they’re able access your network, normally leveraging malware or exploiting network vulnerabilities.

  • Stage 3: Exploitation

This involves delivering malicious code onto the system so as to get a better foothold.

  • Stage 4: Privilege Escalation

Attackers often need more privileges on a system to access data and permissions. For this, they need to escalate their privileges to admin level.

  • Stage 5: Lateral Movement

Attackers can now move laterally to other systems and accounts in order to gain more leverage, whether that’s higher permissions, more data, or greater access to systems.

  • Stage 6: Obfuscation/Anti-forensics

In order to effectively pull off a cyber attack, hackers need to cover their tracks. They often lay false trails by deleting logs to confuse and slow down any forensics teams.

  • Stage 7: Denial of Service

This involves disrupting normal access to the infiltrated system for users and Cyber Security teams, in order to prevent the attack from being monitored and blocked.

  • Stage 8: Exfiltration

Finally, the extraction stage is when the hackers remove the data from the compromised system.

Each stage of the cyber kill chain represents an opportunity to stop an attack that’s already in progress. With properly trained Cyber Security staff and the right tools to detect the signs early, an organisation is better able to defend against a system breach and prevent the attack from running its course.

Careers in Cyber Security

Cyber Security has been identified by an Australian government report as one of the six industry sectors that are most essential to the long-term stability of the nation’s economy.

Rising demand for online security is tipped to result in the Australian cyber market tripling in size over the next decade, with employment levels in the industry growing at the same rate. In the next two years alone, 7000 Australian roles are expected to be added to the sector. It’s certainly a lucrative industry that offers exceptional long-term career prospects, but how can you break into it?

Career paths for Cyber Security Professionals

Chief Research Officer at CompTIA Tim Herbert claims “you don’t have to be a graduate of MIT to work in Cyber Security. It just requires someone who has the proper training, proper certification and is fully committed to the work”.

Despite its critical role in the tech space, Cyber Security is still an emerging field. Organisations are only just starting to build their Cyber Security workforce, which means new roles and specialisms are being created all the time. 

With the industry constantly growing and evolving, plotting a career path into it can seem daunting. To simplify things and help you plan your route, we’ve broken a Cyber Security career roadmap into three distinct steps: entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level roles.

Step 1: Land an entry-level role

Entry-level roles in Cyber Security require applicants to have basic Cyber Security qualifications, such as a bachelor’s degree or certification, but may not expect you to have previous work experience. 

Entry-level roles will typically involve monitoring systems, detecting anomalies and escalating potential threats to your seniors.

Step 2: Land a mid-level role

With a few years of experience behind you, you’ll be in a strong position to apply for mid-level analyst, tester or engineer roles, which take on more strategic responsibilities. 

Mid-level roles are likely to see you designing security systems and reviewing and auditing them for problems, using methods like penetration testing. You’ll also address the threats escalated by entry-level Cyber Security analysts, devising and implementing solutions.

Step 3: Land a senior-level role

For those of you with big ambitions, enough industry experience and further training will prepare you to apply for senior-level positions, like Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO), which are important leadership roles. 

In a senior-level role, you’ll take responsibility for the security of your organisation’s entire IT landscape. You’ll also create strategic security roadmaps, review and negotiate contracts, engage vendors, and manage security teams.

Industry demand for Cyber Security

How high is the demand for Cyber Security in Australia?

With the threat of cybercrime rapidly increasing, it’s estimated that Australia will need 30,000 more Cyber Security Professionals by 2026.

Currently, over 1,983 Australian Cyber Security roles are up for grabs on Seek (as of October 2022). It’s worth remembering that the organisational need for Cyber Security is global, so wherever you end up in life you’ll have a skillset that employers are actively searching for. 

How much do Cyber Security Professionals earn in Australia?

Cyber Security is one of Australia’s fastest growing industries and is always on the hunt for talented professionals. This is reflected in the lucrative pay opportunities for Cyber Security Professionals: 

  • The average Cyber Security Expert salary in Australia at $120,337 per year (or $61.71 per hour).
  • The average salary for entry-level Cyber Security Professionals is $100,000 per year.
  • Senior-level Cyber Security Professionals make $160,625 per year on average.

Becoming a Cyber Security Professional

How hard is it to learn Cyber Security?

Even for a complete beginner, learning Cyber Security is not as tricky as you might imagine. However, it is a technically demanding profession that requires a broad range of practical skills. 

You’ll need to be able to perform risk assessments and recommend best practices for improving security measures (this might include delivering verbal and written reports to management and stakeholders). Additionally, you’ll need the critical thinking mindset to identify weaknesses and implement controls and countermeasures.    

It takes time and dedication to grasp all these approaches, while you’ll need plenty of hands-on practice to get the most out of the industry’s latest tools and software.

If you’re keen to carve out a position in the industry, you should consider earning a formal certification. Without this, landing that first role will be an uphill battle, since so many others applying for the same roles will have a proven skillset.

Where can I train as a Cyber Security Professional?     

There are many options when it comes to qualifying for a role in Cyber Security. Traditional universities offer Bachelor of Cyber Security degrees, which normally take 3-4 years to complete. 

There’s less expectation that Cyber Security Professionals be university qualified these days, with many employers favouring tangible skills, practical experience and a solid portfolio over formal degrees. 

Subsequently, lots of people are now enrolling in short bootcamp-style courses, which quickly prepare graduates for the industry by focusing on high-value skills and a stand-out portfolio.  

What Cyber Security courses does Academy Xi offer?

Academy Xi offers flexible, online training that’s designed specifically for digital careers. 

Whatever your starting point, our Cyber Security course will give you the critical thinking mindset and technical skills that a career in today’s Cyber Security industry calls for.

  • Cyber Security Engineering: Transform – For those who want to kickstart a new career as a Cyber Security Professional, including 24 weeks of access to a Career Support Program that helps 97% of graduates straight into industry.

Want to discuss your transferable skills and training options? Chat to a course advisor today. We’ll help you to find the perfect course so you can kickstart a career in the fight against cyber crime.