Paul Degan, principal security analyst, Liberty IT. Cybersecurity profile
Paul Degan, principal security analyst, Liberty IT. Image: Liberty IT

‘Cybersecurity is a never-ending game of cat and mouse’

11 Jul 2017

Cybersecurity seems to have a never-ending talent gap, but exciting career possibilities still await.

One of the most exciting sectors in tech right now is cybersecurity, particularly with recent ransomware attacks and data breaches making headlines.

For those interested in a career in infosec, an insight from someone who already works in the sector can help you be better prepared.

Future Human

Paul Degan is the principal security analyst (security operations centre, Tier III) at Liberty IT. Here, he talks about the steps that brought him to his career and the best parts of his job.

What first stirred your interest in a career in technology?

I have grown up with computers. My first computer was a Commodore 64 in the early ’80s, and I remember enjoying writing simple BASIC programs on it. Since then, I have always had an interest in technology and IT. It wasn’t until I joined the military some years later that I got the opportunity to align my hobby with my career.

What education and other jobs led you to the role you now have?

When I served in the Defence Forces, I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity to avail of training and education. I completed a BEng in electronic engineering at IT Carlow, followed by an MSc in forensic computing and cybercrime investigation (FCCI) at UCD.

Initially working in the Defence Forces’ Communications and Information Services Corps, I spent the latter part of my military career seconded to the National Cyber Security Centre.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered on your career path?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge is the pace of change in our industry. IT is not a field where someone can simply complete a course and then stop learning.

Changes and advancements in technology mean that we have to continually learn new skills, research new topics and keep up to date with the latest trends.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

There were two people who really influenced me, so it’s difficult to pick just one. There was a commandant in the Defence Forces who spotted potential in me and presented me with some career-changing opportunities.

Then there was a doctor from UCD’s centre for cybersecurity and cybercrime investigation who I worked closely with for a number of years. I really learned a lot from him.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I particularly enjoy malware analysis. It’s a never-ending game of ‘cat and mouse’. It can be really rewarding to unravel the inner workings of a piece of malware and then implement a series of controls to defend against it.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

Being inquisitive. I was always the sort who would take things apart to see how they worked inside. I find this trait essential to forming an investigative mindset.

How did Liberty IT support you on your career path?

Liberty IT has supported me through internal and external training. It also gave me an opportunity to work on a broad array of projects that have furthered my skills and experience.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in cybersecurity, or just starting out in one?

I would advise anyone with an interest in security to start attending relevant events. There are some great security conferences and meet-ups where you will not only learn a lot, but also meet people with lots of experience.

OWASP host regular meet-ups with great speakers, and the annual IRISS conference is not to be missed.

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