A Student Account of Their CyberFirst Summer Placement with GCA

Over the past eight weeks myself and three other CyberFirst bursary students have been working with GCA on a variety of cyber-related projects. The experience has allowed us to gain an insight into the cybersecurity profession and engage with some of the latest developments in the field. I have particularly enjoyed being able to see how the theory we learn at university is applied to industry and engaging with a variety of specialists working in different areas of cybersecurity.

CyberFirst is a bursary scheme for UK university students looking to enter a career in cybersecurity. It helps us find placements, gain experience, attend talks, extends learning opportunities, and provides a community of students with similar interests. I have learned a lot from the other students on this placement and being able to share ideas with peers throughout my time on CyberFirst has played a big role in developing my understanding of the cybersecurity landscape.

During our time with GCA we have all agreed that not only has our technical ability improved but also our confidence working within a professional environment. We have worked on several projects both collectively and individually. We have created code, statistics, and data analysis to compare the different domain resolvers currently available – this will help GCA with the work they are doing with Quad9 by providing a direct comparison with other resolvers. We have also been working together on a report, collating information about the current cyber threats which businesses are facing and looking at how successful current defences are.

We have attended a variety of different meetings and talks both with GCA staff and external partners. We have taken part in the GCA “Brown Bag” series where different staff members talk about their area of expertise or projects they are currently working on. Attending meetings with external partners has also been an interesting part of the placement; learning how products and ideas between businesses are created and brought to life is something that I had never been involved with before. We each created a video discussing an IoT hack and the potential threat that IoT devices have both in the workplace and at home. This helped develop skills needed to explain technical concepts in a simplified way, important when thinking about a career in cybersecurity. 

We have all improved our understanding of DMARC, an email authentication policy which prevents domain spoofing by blocking and reporting any potentially spoofed emails. Some of us have set up DMARC within a business and helped these companies reduce the threat of phishing emails getting past SPAM filters. I have been working on a project which will reveal to a company if DMARC and other related policies are set up simply by sending an email. Other individual projects included a wireshark dissector, a data/JSON convertor, and a security-enabled chip detector. 

Overall, it has been a great experience working with GCA over the summer, and it has given us visibility of the breadth of opportunity with the industry. Looking forward to the future, we all have different aims once we finish our university courses – from secure software development to cryptography. However, we all agree that this summer placement has provided us with a broad depth of understanding and variety of new skills which we will take with us as we develop our individual careers as cyber professionals.

Editor’s Note:

If you would like to find out more about Amy and the other students who joined us this summer take a look at the interview they did on the community forum: https://community.globalcyberalliance.org/t/interview-insights-into-our-2020-ncsc-cyberfirst-bursary-students/1018

To find out more about the CyberFirst Programme, please visit https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberfirst/overview.

We at GCA have certainly enjoyed having the students with us this summer and would like to thank them for the valuable contribution they have made to the important work we undertake. A bright and rewarding career in cybersecurity lies ahead for them all.