A six-pack of cyber security awareness


WISBy Kema Rajandran

Connie McIntosh, the woman who took out the Miss World Fitness and Miss Fitness Australia Championships 2000 and 2001 is more than just a model and fitness fanatic, she is also the Senior Adviser at CERT Australia – the national computer emergency response team.

With a Bachelor of Communication (Honours) in Information Technology, a Diploma of Management and a Diploma of Government (Contract Management), it’s a wonder how McIntosh has fit in becoming a wife, mother of two children and a qualified personal trainer and fitness instructor; all within her early thirties.

“I have been married for 12 years to my partner Graeme, we have two amazing, talented and beautiful children, one boy and one girl who keep me busy with Academic competitions, Soccer, Tennis, Acting and Modelling. I am an animal lover; I have two horses, a dog and cat.”

“My hobbies are Fitness, I am a qualified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and I won the Miss World Fitness and Miss Fitness Australia Championships 2000 and 2001 – hobby taken to the extreme I know.”

A self confessed lover of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), stand up paddle boarding, bushwalking, the beach and outdoors and above all having fun some may think the cyber world is a strange fit for McIntosh.

“I have always been interested in computing and saw it as an exciting area which had many different opportunities. I knew it was a career that would never be boring and one which would allow me to continually learn which is something I love to do and it’s constantly evolving and always busy.” McIntosh said.

“Security has been paramount throughout my career and it is one of the most exciting career choices you can make, the work is exciting, interesting and ever evolving.”

CERT is part of the Federal Attorney-General’s Department and is the point of contact in Government for cyber security issues affecting major Australian businesses.

“We also work in the Cyber Security Operations Centre, sharing information and working closely with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).”

In her first two years at CERT Australia, McIntosh’s’ role was Senior Technical Adviser. She assisted partners during incidents, liaised with partners on technical issues, analysed malware, actively identified vulnerabilities, provided technical guidance on mitigating threats and vulnerabilities, provided advice and assistance during an incident as well as worked with international partners to seek remediation of attacks originating overseas.

McIntosh says that awareness of Cyber Security is on the rise amongst Australians however in general the number of incidents increases each year.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to the rise of incidents, such as; increased use of internet and digital products, increase in the abilities and number of hackers, the sophistication of malware and targeted campaigns, software or hardware vulnerabilities, antivirus, antispyware, firewalls, lack of personal security around passwords (i.e. having different passwords for all your accounts online or sharing your password), computer sharing and non hardening of systems.”

“Hackers are successfully using events such as G20 and MH370 to send phishing emails that attract attention and entice users to click on links which unbeknown to the user then installs malware onto their device, allowing hackers to gain access to the device.”

As technology is ever changing and mobile devices are increasing in the workplace, McIntosh keeps up to date with topics of interest around the world through webinars.

“There is certainly more focus on security since September 11 and that is for the benefit of society.”

“I am now a Senior Adviser focusing on engaging international and national partners, hosting information exchange events, signing up new partners, business analysis, liaising with government, industry and international networks.”

“I really enjoy collaborating with International and National Partners on improving Cyber Security. The Cyber Security Community is a very positive one and are highly collaborative in an effort to achieve good outcomes.”

But it’s not all desk-bound for this multitalented pocket rocket, last year McIntosh ran the 2013 Asia Pacific CERT (APCERT) Conference and Annual General Meeting. Hosting 19 countries for four days with over 100 delegates; something she truly enjoyed.

“I am really lucky to have the ability to work in the technical and non technical areas being able to keep across issues affecting our Partners and being able to see the work we do making a difference.”

Being treated as one of the boys from early on in her career, McIntosh admits security is very much man’s world however loved it having grown up with brothers and being comfortable in a male environment.

“A very memorable time was at the Department of Finance when I started my career in the Australian Public Service will always be a treasured time. The guys Barry, Andrew1, Andrew2, Owen, Wayne, Siggy and Pete all taught me so much and watched me grow up, get married have children, we were like family.”

“Since then much has changed in gender diversity, in CERT Australia we have approximately 40 per cent females. Security is a real option for women as a wonderful career choice.”

Having worked across three key Federal Government Department’s in her career thus far; McIntosh was not afraid to get her hands dirty and began at the Department of Finance in an operational role.

“I was splicing fibre by hand, making pin cables, building and monitoring systems and networks. I worked in Parliament House which was great, I was in and out of the Prime Minister’s and other Minister’s offices frequently.”

Four years later she moved across to Defence undertaking an IT role for two years before moving to the Attorney General’s Department where she worked in their Technical Operations environment.

“I returned to the Department of Finance in the Government Fibre Network team, building fibre networks for the government, project managing installations and business relations.”

It was only five years ago that McIntosh returned back to Attorney General’s Department working as Operations Manager in Networks and Systems before she joined CERT Australia in 2011.

“CERT Australia is at the forefront of Cyber Security and we constantly work on actively identifying vulnerabilities and notifying our partners. We assist Critical Infrastructure in protecting their networks; we assist in incident investigation and information sharing.”

“Our capabilities are growing rapidly and I highly encourage women and girls to seriously consider a career in security, IT and in particularly Cyber as it’s exciting, challenging, interesting and evolving.”

“I have always worked in Security focussed roles and I have found throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to work with great managers who embody professionalism and I’ve strived to learn from them all.”