Cyber sleuth pushes limits
Security specialist David Litchfield. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

There are few people living in Perth who owe their career to movie star Sandra Bullock.

Then again, there are few people in Perth who do what David Litchfield does.

Mr Litchfield is a world- renowned cybersecurity expert.

And the connection to Sandra Bullock?

"Well, I was studying zoology at university and I watched the film The Net," he said, describing the 1995 Hollywood flick that explored the world of hacking.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is amazing'. So I dropped out of zoology and started studying computing."

Fast-forward to today and Mr Litchfield has been profiled in Forbes for his hacking skills, developed security procedures for tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon and is a recognised author on the subject.

The cybersecurity leader has also been living in Perth since November after moving from Scotland, working for the local arm of information security specialists Datacom TSS.

"My mother moved here seven years ago," he said. "I love diving, particularly with sharks (great whites in Port Lincoln, South Australia and) whale sharks in the north, and we were visiting all the time so my girlfriend and I decided to move."

A typical day for Mr Litchfield at TSS is like a scary, foreign world for the average computer user. He usually splits his time between breaking into a com- pany's computer system to show a client how he did it, or assessing the forensic side of a hack - analysing how the hacker broke in, what they took and the steps needed to prevent it in the future.

Although the global cost of hacking is estimated at up to $500 billion, Mr Litchfield said cybersecurity was often seen as a sideline issue for business. He said that perception came through a combination of ignorance and a lack of understanding.

"It's not that they're blase," he said. "It's just they think they've done enough but they haven't and they just don't know.

"Invariably what happens is that people take 10 steps to protect themselves when what they should have done was take 15 or 20. You can't rest on your laurels, you have to be vigilant all the time and see if you've been compromised. I've got clients that have had big financial losses because of it.

"For example, in the mining industry in WA, people gaining access to a company's bidding systems can be a big one, seeing how much they are bidding for something and undercutting them, particularly from China."

Unsurprisingly, he said Perth was "a few years" behind the eight ball when it came to cybersecurity. He believed the future of cybersecurity was all about becoming more reactive.

"The key in the future is not so much prevention, I think people are beginning to give up on that as it moves too quick," he said.

"So what we need to do is watch when a break-in happens and close it down as soon as it does happen."

The West Australian

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