When it comes to keeping yourself safe online, cyber security professional Chua Wei Hang has a simple analogy.
“It is just like the story of the three little pigs. Do you live in a straw, wooden or brick house?” he asked.
With uncharacteristic sternness, Wei Hang warned: “You may secure your router, but by using a weak password, all it takes is someone with a bit more skill and determination to easily access your network.”
The thought of some shady entity attempting to hack into private accounts and networks may seem like something out of the latest season of CSI Cyber, but the threats are more real than you think.
A 2016 study by PwC revealed that 2015 saw the largest increase in cyber attacks in the past decade globally. Closer to home, the Singapore Police Force said that cybercrimes in 2015 had nearly doubled from the year before.
This was no surprise to Wei Hang and he shared how simple it was for someone to purchase programmes to target victims online, a phenomenon known as script kiddies. He explained: “All the person needs to do is to install, click a button and the attack launches. If the tool gets proliferated, you have a weapon of mass destruction on your hands.”
It may sound a lot like doomsaying, but being prepared for worst-case scenarios is Wei Hang’s everyday reality. The National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Computer Engineering alumnus is an Information Systems Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs, where a regular day in the office could mean dealing with security alerts such as suspected virus intrusions. Even on a slow day, no stone is left unturned in investigating incidents like the discovery of new vulnerabilities in products used by government agencies.
The cyber security field first piqued Wei Hang’s interest during an early stage in his career. While working with his director, who provided security consultancy to government agencies, he found the subject to be different and exciting.
Today, staying ahead of the rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape is no easy task, and involves a lot of studying, monitoring and planning. However, it is one that Wei Hang tackles with relish. With a guardian personality based on the Myers-Briggs profiling test to boot, the 32-year-old professed to harbour an instinct to protect, lending a natural edge to his calling in cyber security.
“The security field changes very quickly and every day, we hear of new attacks and incidents. It sounds a little sadistic, but that is where the fun is,” Wei Hang said with a laugh.
As a proud alumnus of NUS Computing, Wei Hang routinely returns to NUS for Open Day and informal career networking sessions. Often, current and prospective students would consult him on their career options, hoping for an insider’s take on their job prospects.
To fuel their imagination, he would use a presentation slide listing 19 infocomm security vocations, in a show of just how varied and exciting the field really is.
And for those who still think that computer engineering is a boring place to be, he usually quashes those sentiments by directing attention to today’s most innovative brands.
“Look at Google and Facebook, and even Singapore’s own IDA Hive. Look at the workspaces they have. It is not all dull and gloomy, cubicles and walls, and nerdy people with thick eye glasses looking at screens. I would say that with the government’s push to build up the ICT sector, programmers or developers have become very attractive roles,” said Wei Hang, beaming with pride.
Certainly, Wei Hang subverts the “geeky engineer” stereotype in more ways than one. Not one to hide away in the library during his school days, leadership opportunities at the NUS Students’ Computing Club saw him take on a gamut of responsibilities, from designing orientation games to creating a buddy system for computing seniors to guide their juniors academically.
Juggling an action-packed student life was admittedly tough. Yet, despite the challenges, Wei Hang would make all the same choices again in a heartbeat, having enjoyed a fulfilling student life at NUS that he has encouraged his juniors to embrace. Wei Hang said: “If you are passionate about something, somehow or other, you will find ways and means to seek out that passion. And that really drove me to balance out my responsibilities.”
Seven years after graduation and now a full-fledged working professional, that same passion and drive shows no sign of slowing down.
In addition to spearheading community initiatives for youths as the vice chairperson of the Chong Pang CC Youth Executive Committee, the certified dragon boat and abseiling coach even finds time to pursue his sporting interests on weekends, balanced carefully with time set aside for friends and family.
Despite having so much on his plate, the guardian of our cyberspace never feels tired.
“If you find purpose and meaning in what you do, it does not become a chore. When you are doing something you enjoy, time passes quickly and you do not feel tired. In fact, you feel fulfilled and satisfied,” Wei Hang concluded.