Gaining national recognition and a cash prize from Commonwealth Bank was more than Jon Butler expected when he came top of his cyber security class.
The RMIT Bachelor of Computer Science student was one of only eight students selected for the CommBank Cyber Prize 2016, which is awarded by Commonwealth Bank to the top cyber security students in Australia.
After achieving top marks for his course, Security in Computing and Information Technology, Butler was astonished to receive further recognition.
"At first I was so surprised that I thought the email notification might just be spam, but after hearing CommBank’s reasons for awarding the prize, I can see that they place a high value on the course's importance to the security profession.”
Now in its second year, the Cyber Prize was established to encourage students to choose careers in cyber security and to support learning pathways into the field.
“CommBank recognises that there is a shortage of skilled experts in the cyber security field, so they created the prize in order to promote interest in it from top students,” Butler said.
As well as receiving $1000, Butler’s prize included an invitation to the bank’s Sydney head office for presentations, mentoring and a tour of their national security centre.
“Touring CommBank's security offices opened my eyes to how extensive the field is, and how much it's needed,” he said.
“The bank employs a multitude of teams, each focusing on their own security areas, and I was taken aback slightly by the sheer number of security experts they must be employing.”
Underlining the bank’s desire to develop Australia’s future cyber security workforce, a key element of the prize is to get the students on site to tour their security centre and receive mentoring by industry professionals.
The prize winners were assigned to specialist teams, covering different facets of cyber security, with Butler choosing Penetration Testing/Application Security and Digital Forensics, which proved a revelation.
“They aren't just employed to protect against threats from the outside, as internal threats were taken just as seriously,” Butler said.
“They have a team tasked with penetrating the bank's systems as if they were outside attackers, but they also go beyond penetrative testing to infiltration by any means necessary, testing even their own employees, which really sparked my interest, showing that cyber security is as much about protecting people from threats as it is protecting systems.”
Associate Professor Peter Bertok, who teaches the Security in Computing and Information Technology course, said that the prize was a well-deserved.
"This prize is a great reward for an exceptional student and I'm delighted for Jon," Bertok said.
"It is also a great recognition for RMIT’s cyber security course and a great incentive for other students, knowing that a big player like CommBank is monitoring their progress.”
While he sees the prize as proof that RMIT’s cyber security course is among the best in the country, Bertok also stresses that this area is also becoming a research focus at the university.
"Cyber security is a serious business, RMIT has expertise in the area across multiple disciplines, which is all being brought under one umbrella this year, so that Cyber Security at RMIT can be recognised nationally and internationally for the quality and scope of its research and teaching.”
Story: Daniel Walder