Interest in e-security piqued after playing Diablo II
All he wanted was to play his computer game, Diablo II, more efficiently.
But when he went online to search for a programming script to help level up his virtual character, 17-year-old Long Jia Jun's life was changed.
That was about 10 years ago.
The experience sparked his interest in the cyber world, and he took part in the 2010 Cyber Conquest - a cyber security competition - and finished second.
The competition, now in its seventh year, kicks off on Monday (Oct 10), as part of Singapore International Cyber Week. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will launch Singapore's new cyber security strategy at the inaugural three-day event.
It is organised by the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore, which was set up in April last year to keep our cyber space safe from attacks.
Mr Long, now 28, told The New Paper last week how he ended up becoming a forensic analyst with the CSA.
Mr Long Jia Jun went from being a gamer to being a e-forensic cop. TNP PHOTO: OH XING YEE
Diablo II is a fantasy role-playing game where players defeat monsters and collect treasures.
"I was just trying to find a way to get my character (in Diablo II) to level up without me actually sitting at my computer and playing," he said.
"If someone like me could find a script so easily on Google, surely there must be more to it."
With his curiosity piqued, he pursued a diploma at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Information Technology.
In 2010, his lecturer persuaded him to take part in Cyber Conquest, where participants, in teams of two, have to solve, or hack, about 20 programming scenarios to gain as many points as possible in eight hours.
Mr Long and his partner finished second, and won an iPad each.
He joined the CSA last year, having previously worked as a programmer for about a year.
Today, he looks for digital evidence in the event of a cyber attack, keeping our digital doors sealed against cyber attacks.
In the past year, 16 attacks on Government networks made it past firewall systems, according to the CSA.
The malware was detected and destroyed, thanks to defences put up by cybercops. In such cases, forensic cops like Mr Long would head to the crime scene to collect evidence.
"We would take the infected machine, look through the electronic files for evidence of whatever software that attacked it, and trace it back to the source," he said.
He added that many cases happened because users had clicked on malicious links from phishing e-mails, where attackers pose as reputable organisations to try to obtain a user's personal information.
"What I learnt is that many people fall for it after repeated attempts. If it's just once or twice, people usually won't believe. But these scams come so often," he said.
He said the best way to prevent this is to practise good cyber hygiene.
Singapore's cybersecurity market is worth $570 million today, according to accounting giant PwC.
With so much at stake, there still remains a fine line between a cyber defender and a hacker, but Mr Long insisted he made the right choice.
He said: "As an attacker, all you need to do is break in once. As a defender, you have to block out all sorts of attacks. The job keeps you on your feet. So why limit myself?"
Boosting your 'cyber hygiene'
Senior assistant director of SingCert, Mr Patrick Choong. TNP PHOTO: OH XING YEE
Imagine an attack that takes down a banking service and disrupts millions of customers.
Or another that locks your systems and your data and can be retrieved only if you pay a ransom.
These are two examples of real-life attacks that have happened and are becoming more pertinent in today's cyber age, said Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (SingCert) senior assistant director Patrick Choong.
The SingCert team, comprising 50 personnel, responds to and monitors cyber security incidents.
It then checks out the reports to ensure the threat is contained and also engages the public in cyber awareness programmes.
Mr Choong, 41, told The New Paper last week that devastating cyber attacks could come in the form of DDoS (distributed denial of service), where thousands of compromised computers are used to target a website or server at the same time, causing it to overload and become unavailable.
For example, in January, online banking services for millions of HSBC customers in the UK were disrupted by a DDoS attack.
Many took to social media to vent their anger.
But such attacks can be prevented by proper cyber hygiene, said Mr Choong.
"If you and I take care of our devices, having the proper anti-virus programs, being aware of cyber threats and how not to fall for them, we can prevent our computers or phones from being compromised and being used by others," he said.
"It starts with the individual - you and me - and everyone has a part to play in protecting our cyberspace."
ABOUT THE SICW
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will launch Singapore's new cyber security strategy at the inaugural three-day Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW), starting today.
SICW, organised by the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore, is expected to be attended by over 3,000 political leaders, government and policy decision-makers, and industry players and delegates.
SICW will bring together GovernmentWare, the region's premier conference and exhibition on cyber security, and other events including the first Asean ministerial conference on cyber security.
Said CSA chief executive David Koh: "Cyber security threats are global and borderless and it is imperative that governments and organisations come together to have frank and robust discussions to explore partnership opportunities and develop new capabilities."
BY THE NUMBERS
How much the Singapore cybersecurity market is worth.
cases were reported under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act between January and June, up from the 148 cases reported in the same period last year.
in 10 Singaporeans install anti-virus software on their smartphones, but eight in 10 do so on their computers.