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Why should people study cyber security?

Aalto University Professor Jarno Limnéll and student Jasu Vehtari explain what the most interesting aspects of cyber security are and why it is a useful subject to study.
Picture of Jarno Limnéll, Professor of Cyber Security and Jasu Vehtari, student at the School of Science.
Jarno Limnéll, Professor of Cyber Security (left) and Jasu Vehtari, student at the School of Science (right). Photos: Kukka-Maria Rosenlund, and Juulia Markkanen

Cyber security knowledge is an increasingly important attribute in our society, and more professionals in the field of cyber security are needed. We asked Aalto University’s Professor Jarno Limnéll and student Jasu Vehtari in the field what they think is interesting about cyber security, what kinds of study opportunities the field offers, and what kinds of careers experts in cyber security can create for themselves. 

Professor Jarno Limnéll has taught cyber security at Aalto University for more than five years and has had a lengthy career in the field of security. Limnéll became interested in the topic when he noticed how technology was starting to have a growing impact on security in our society, in companies, and in the everyday lives of people. After this, he gradually started thinking more and more about security questions in the digital world and took his first steps in the field of cyber security. Before his career as a professor, Limnéll's work history included, for example, serving as the director of cyber security at Stonesoft.  

Jasu Vehtari, a first-year student at Aalto University's School of Science, has always been interested in technology. In upper secondary school, Vehtari practised his skills in information technology independently and his talent combined with his enthusiasm ended up giving the young man the opportunity to demonstrate his skills as part of the Aalto cyber security team. In his studies, Vehtari wants to expand his know-how in the field of technology and his dream for the future is to work with either games, data science, or technical cyber security. 

What is the most interesting part of cyber security? 

‘One especially interesting aspect is the pace of change of technology and cyber security. This field is constantly moving forward at great speed, which means that you constantly need to follow the time, new things, and all the good and bad things that emerge. The field is therefore very dynamic, and its continuous changes make this work most fascinating. We are currently considering responses to questions on how we should operate with the modern world and the digital world and with related security, what kind of legislation should be created, what kinds of skills we should teach, and what kinds of cyber security solutions we should create. There are often no ready answers to these questions’, Limnéll explains.  

Vehtari says that he is interested in white hat hacking and in studying the security of systems. ‘I am interested in competing against hackers and systems. For example, is it possible to invent ways to get into a system or to block access to it? Can I find the vulnerabilities in the system before others do?’ Vehtari explains and continues: ‘Another thing that may not directly relate to cyber security is the general processing of data, which I find interesting - for example, how log or firewall data can be utilised.’ 

The significance of cyber security as part of the overall concept of security is constantly gaining strength.

Professor Jarno Limnéll 

How did you end up working in cyber security? 

‘Throughout my career, I have worked with security, and security is close to my heart. I also noticed how technology started to have a growing impact on security, both in society, in businesses, and in people's everyday lives. Then I started to gradually ponder these security questions of the digital world more and more and, in a way, it swept me away. However, I am not focused exclusively on cyber security research, but its significance as part of the overall concept of security is constantly gaining strength and makes it interesting’, Limnéll says.  

Vehtari nabbed a job in his own field at a very early stage of his studies. When he was in upper secondary school, Vehtari spent his free time looking for vulnerabilities in systems together with his friend, and he reported on what he found to the owners of the system. During his time in the upper secondary school, Vehtari also participated in an expert day, where a student follows the work of an expert for one day.

During the expert day, Vehtari got to tell representatives of Aalto about his experiments with cyber security and heard about an open summer job with digital examinations. Vehtari decided to apply for a job, got it and started in the summer of 2018 at his first job in his field, even though he wasn’t even in university yet. One of the goals of the work was to find vulnerabilities in the digital examination system. “I found, for example, access to internet in the system, which should not have been possible’, Vehtari describes.  

‘When I was working on digital examinations at Aalto, Aalto’s Chief Information Security Officer became interested in what I was doing and offered me a continuation in his own team for the following summer. I decided to accept the offer and I am still working at Aalto’, Vehtari says.  

Why is it useful to study cyber security? 

‘First, there is a shortage of experts in the field. For someone who wants a future-proof career in a field, which is increasingly important, the field of cyber security and information security is undoubtedly worth considering’, Limnéll says, adding: ‘On the other hand, for someone who does not want to be a full-time cyber security expert, the basic information and skills are beneficial, no matter what job a person gets. Security questions connected with the digital world apply to all of us. For those who have completed basic cyber security courses of some kind, it is seen as positive in any field.’

 

Roles in cyber security are on the rise and it is a pretty safe bet that work is available for someone who knows these things.

Jasu Vehtari

‘Generally speaking, it is useful to understand what the overall requirements of data protection are to make it possible to ensure that data stays safe. On the other hand, a broader understanding of these kinds of data protection issues would be important in all fields and studying cyber security helps in this. In addition, the importance of cyber security is constantly underscored by the expansion of the digital world, and I also agree with Jarno Limnéll that there is a shortage of experts in the field. Roles in cyber security are on the rise and it is a pretty safe bet that work is available for someone who knows these things’, Vehtari says.  

What kinds of career opportunities are there for cyber security experts?  

Limnéll says that there are opportunities for a fairly versatile career for experts in cyber security. For example, you can be employed as a security consultant who carries out risk assessments, as an expert in developing security services and solutions, or as an expert in international politics or law who is familiar with the cyber world. 

Vehtari raises the cyber security team at Aalto as an example, where many kinds of experts can be found. ‘There are technical specialists who handle logs, for example, or set technical requirements, or conduct technical examinations of new technologies, while making sure that existing functions stay functional. Then there is the administrative cyber security side, where legal, or communications tasks can be found. So, in addition to many technical tasks, specialists are also needed in writing contracts, process management, crisis communications, and instructing users on both cyber security and data protection matters’, Vehtari describes.  

‘There are plenty of opportunities and it is also good to mention that not all career options are linked to coding, and that there is a great variety of alternatives. The field needs many kinds of skilled people, so I recommend that those who are even slightly interested in cyber security should boldly come out and learn about the study opportunities’, Limnéll concludes.  

Opiskelija kampuksella.
Photographer: Unto Rautio

Are you interested in studying cyber security? 

At Aalto, you can study cyber security extensively, especially at the Department of Computer Science.   

At Aalto University, you can find a European double degree programme funded by the European Commission: Security and Cloud Computing (SECCLO), https://secclo.eu/, which accepts applications from Aalto bachelor's students.  

In 2016, Aalto University and the University of Helsinki founded the Helsinki-Aalto Institute for Cybersecurity (HAIC).  The HAIC website includes an excellent lecture series which is free of charge and open to all, which discusses topical issues of cybersecurity:  

https://haic.fi/talks/

At Aalto, you can also choose among many kinds of courses related to cyber security. Here are a few examples from which students can easily start:   

ELEC-E7470 Cybersecurity, Professor: Jarno Limnéll  

The course examines the cyber world in the bigger picture and is more a comprehensive examination of where this cyber world is actually going, and what we should do in relation to it. The course discusses issues such as cyber-diplomacy, international politics, online crime, developing skills and knowledge, and what kinds of skills are needed in this field.   

CS-C3130 Information Security, Professor: Tuomas Aura  

In the course, the student learns the central concepts and abstracts of data protection and to understand the purpose, operations, and weaknesses of data protection techniques. After the course, students will be capable of modelling threats and critically analysing the safety of the system from the attacker's point of view. In addition, they can identify the general gaps in data protection in software and apply the principles of safe programming.  

CS-E4350 Security Engineering, Professor: Janne Lindqvist   

In this course, students learn key principles, technologies, tools, and methods of cyber security. The purpose is to attain deeper understanding that data protection is not about technology alone, and that people are also a part of the system. In addition to the technological angle, data protection is approached from the points of view of usability, psychology, and economics. Privacy protection is also discussed in the course. 

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