Originally a native of the town of Thopputhurai, in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, India, Shafeek moved to Singapore in 2018 to pursue a diploma course in information & communications technology (ICT) with the PSB Academy.
“I knew I wanted to study in Singapore,” Shafeek said. “Singapore has such an incredible reputation worldwide when it comes to education, so I knew an ICT certificate from here would be very valuable.”
Shafeek then pursued a Bachelor of Sciences degree, specialising in cybersecurity and ethical hacking, from Coventry University through PSB Academy. He recognised that cybersecurity was an increasingly vital area given the growth of digitalization, in tandem with cybercrime around the world. “For me, the choice was clear,” he said. “I will be dealing with different types of cybersecurity threats, every day, and I like to solve new challenges.”
Upon graduation, he joined Flexxon Pte Ltd as a cybersecurity engineer, and was subsequently appointed as cybersecurity project manager. In this capacity he is responsible for bolstering the organisation’s cybersecurity infrastructure as well as that of its products.
A global threat
According to Reportlinker.com, the global cybersecurity market is expected to grow from US$186.6 billion in 2021 to US$348.9 billion by 2027.1 Cybersecurity attacks include ransomware/malware, distributed denial of service, phishing, data leakages, hacking and others, all of which are continuously growing in sophistication.
Globally, a cross-section of organisations, including Singapore companies and government organisations, have been the target of cyber attacks. Companies also pay many millions every year in ransomware. Given the extent of the threat and billions lost to cyberattacks every year, cybersecurity professionals are increasingly in demand.
Shafeek understood the magnitude of the risks that cyberthreats pose, as well as the challenges of countering them only too well.
We need to think like hackers ourselves…”
In addition to the demands of his work, he dedicates some time to be an advocate for cybersecurity. Recently, he addressed members of the public at the IMDA Digital for Life Festival 2022, organised in conjunction with Cyber Youth Singapore, where he touched on the growing importance of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI). “My aim is to make the internet a safer space for everyone, and I’m moving towards that goal every day,” he added.
Importance of skills upgrading
As cybersecurity attacks grow in sophistication, and in volume, cybersecurity specialists certainly have their hands full in warding off attacks. How do they cope with it?
“We need to think like hackers ourselves,” Shafeek said. “And we need to keep on upgrading ourselves and constantly learning about the threats as well as the new technologies. And we also need to expand our knowledge and network by participating in hackathons, and by being active in the cybersecurity community, by attending summits and conferences.”
Shafeek cited a number of industry bodies and academic institutions that offer certifications: “EC-Council, Offensive Security, Sans, (ISC)², Comptia. There are also universities that offer industry level certifications, like NTU, SMU, NUS and even Temasek Security Industry Institute which has its own cybersecurity certifications/training. And there’s a lot of information on the Internet too.”
As technology advances, taking over jobs that we were once carried out by human beings, one consideration for working professionals is whether their skills and qualifications will become redundant.
However, Shafeek believes that there is a still a role for human beings to play: “Artificial intelligence (AI) does help to prevent human errors and there are also case studies on it predicting attack vectors and suggesting feasible solutions. However, the mind behind building those AI is still human, which you need to maintain, and perform quality assurance and upgrades.”
He added: “In the end, intelligence tools make our daily life easy. Routine tasks might be automated but the decision making and dealing with uncertainties requires the human thought process. We can’t be fully relying on AI, instead we have to find a balance.”