Professor of Cyber Security, Faculty of Engineering, University of Bristol
Digital technologies and the importance of cyber security have been brought sharply into focus as a result of social distancing in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of digital technologies to the fore. With people less able to conduct everyday tasks face-to-face. Yet it has also highlighted the importance of cyber security, privacy and keeping critical data and systems safe.
Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Bristol, says: “A lot of functions in society have been able to continue because of digital technologies. But if we cannot have trust in these digital technologies, it has massive repercussions for society. That trust comes from the fact we have security built into these infrastructures.”
With a global shortage of people with cyber security skills, he believes the sector offers significant career opportunities.
Skills needed range from building hardware, software and secure operating systems through to understanding how cyber attackers operate, recognising risk and understanding law and regulation.
A lot of functions in society have been able to continue because of digital technologies. But if we cannot have trust in these digital technologies, it has massive repercussions for society.
Cyber security expertise
The University of Bristol is an acknowledged centre for cyber security expertise, research and teaching in cyber security of large infrastructures that citizens use every day.
It leads the National Cyber Security Programme-funded, CyBOK (Cyber Security Body of Knowledge); has a centre for doctorate training in cyber security; offers an MSc in mathematics for cyber security for analysing large-scale data in cyber security environments; and is launching a Master’s programme in cyber security of large infrastructures.
A big challenge is how to secure infrastructures in railways, water systems and power grids.
“A very specific skill set is needed here,” says Professor Rashid. “For cyber security you do need to understand the theoretical concepts, but you cannot do much with them unless you know how to apply them into real systems.”
To prepare students for real-world scenarios, his department has created a testbed of realistic systems, including a water plant that gives students the opportunity to experience the challenges they may face in the future.