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Interning in the middle of a Pandemic

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Covid-19, cyber security, Internship

I’m Sam, and I’ve just finished an 8-week internship, looking into social media security from my bedroom. 

I got this placement through the CyberFirst Bursary scheme (a government and industry backed initiative), which I applied to during my final year in sixth form. I’d been interested in Cyber Security for a few years, having been introduced to cryptography via the National Cipher Challenge. As part of this programme, I had the opportunity to spend 8 weeks working for the MoJ, conducting an investigation into the security measures implemented by the various MoJ social media accounts and what action should be taken to keep them secure.

Being the first person to ever join, work for and leave the team without ever setting foot in the office, or meeting any of my co-workers, has meant we’ve had to adapt to the various challenges posed. Whilst working from home means that I can’t be judged for my music choices, it also meant that I couldn’t find out about the department and what people do just by hanging out near the coffee machine. So instead, I resorted to scheduling meetings with various people around the department, which although they weren’t as impromptu, meant that I was able to have a full conversation, instead of just a couple of sentences. I’ve also had the opportunity to sit in a variety of meetings, to observe the work of other team members and how it fits into the MoJ.

For my first time working from home, and working for a government department, you could definitely say I started off in the deep end, but it’s been an enjoyable experience. Most days started the same way - watering the mustard plants I decided to start growing at the start of this placement, before logging on to check my messages and get some reading done to prepare me for the daily huddle. The huddle is a meeting where the entire team gets together to discuss their plans for the day, allowing for ideas to be traded, and potential issues to be avoided. It’s also a great chance to see all of the cats that belong to various members of the team, but that’s just a bonus!

After the meeting finishes, no two days are the same - some days I would spend preparing for meetings with teams from either within MoJ or across Government. Other days I’d spend time researching potential solutions to the problems we discover, before documenting my findings. Now that I’ve finished my project, I’m slightly surprised at how much I’ve managed to do in my time here, with work ranging from an investigation into a problem we had, through to looking into potential security issues, and writing up documentation to hopefully prevent any security risks, to name only a few things.

Before this placement, my cyber security experience was limited, consisting of a placement in a completely different area of cyber security last summer and various bits of online learning. So this placement proved a great chance to learn a lot in a short period of time. The best way for me to learn was just by talking to other people. I had the opportunity to speak to people throughout the department, ranging from senior leaders, members of both the red and blue security teams, as well as the delivery team. With every conversation, I’d pick up something new, some idea or nugget of information that I could use in my work. It’s these conversations which led me to exploring whether there were trends in when accounts went idle, into a hate/hate relationship with Regex, and encouraged me to turn the project I was tackling completely on its head.

Now that I’ve finished, I think one of the major things I’m taking away is that cyber security is more a way of thinking than a set of knowledge. Making seemingly random connections between facts is incredibly useful - for example, a conversation about nuclear submarines led to me looking into a technique for securing accounts, and having a strange amount of knowledge about the telephone numbering system turned out to be relevant to a coworkers project. So, if I’ve taken one thing away from this placement, it’s the confidence that cyber security is a career option for me, despite not coming from a computer science background.

If this has piqued your interest in cyber security or MoJ Digital and Technology, check out our current available vacancies.

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