//Blogs - 1 Jun 2021

AusCERT2020 Member Individual of the Year Winner

During the AusCERT2020 Conference, we caught up with Rachael Leighton (Principal Advisor, Cyber Strategy & Awareness @ DPC Vic Gov) to discuss her role in the cyber security fight, and how she felt about being awarded AusCERT2020’s ‘Member Individual of The Year.

Tell us a little about your professional career?

I actually started as a primary school teacher by trade. Then, during 2009 I worked as a volunteer firefighter and ended up contributing towards a community education program. This was my initial foray into IT, as part of the education project involved upgrading radios and informing the community on what to do. After this, I continued to work for different companies in an organisational change capacity.

Eventually I ended up in a Big 4 bank and was working on the same floor as the anti-terror and anti-fraud team. One day I asked them—how do people learn and understand this stuff about cyber security? I realised that if I didn’t know it, surely others didn’t either. From there, my passion for educating people and encouraging organisations to change their behaviour, to consider cyber security and to cultivate a cyber culture was born.

What’s involved in your day-to-day role at Principal Advisor—Cyber Strategy & Awareness for the Department of Premier and Cabinet?

I see myself kind of like a conductor of an orchestra. When we think of cyber security and government, we, as government have a role in creating a Cyber Safe Victoria and that means… there are lots of moving parts – lots of activity that needs to take place and lots of different teams to secure all our kit.

There is still some heavy lifting to do to connect the dots between academia, industry and government to form a vibrant cyber ecosystem. That’s my role – to bring all this together, usually through engaging and with meeting the right people, identifying synergies and opportunities for connecting them together.

Congratulations on winning Member Individual Of The Year. What does winning this award mean to you?

I’m so honoured to get this award. To me, this validates the importance of collaboration. At the end of the day, cyber is hard. If we want to get ahead of the bad guys, we need to be sharing info, reporting incidents, and establishing a trusted and healthy feedback loop. This can be difficult to achieve when the traditional mindset of cyber security professionals is to protect what’s valuable. Yet it’s more beneficial for us all to break down the walls and build trust across the cyber community.   

Trust was immediate for me when working with AusCERT. The team will do anything they can to help Vic Gov uplift cyber posture. So thanks AusCERT, I really appreciate this award. To be recognised for the willingness, and the crazy, that is cyber education and engagement is beautiful.

If you could give one piece of advice for organisations and IT / cyber security professionals, what would that be?

Reach out—don’t go it alone. Don’t try to be a lone hero—we are stronger together. We are a cyber family. Just like the baddies work together and collaborate, if we want to succeed against them, then we too need to work together.