Breadcrumbs

From computer newbie to a Master of Cyber Security

7 June 2017

Siuta
Siuta Laulaupea’alu

Six years ago, Siuta Laulaupea’alu could barely use a computer. Today, his Master of Cyber Security research has proved fundamental in bringing the University of Waikato and the Government of Tonga together to work collaboratively on cyber security issues

Siuta is from Okoa, a tiny island in Vava`u, Tonga, where everyone knows each other and computers are a rare sight. “Okoa has a population of about 400 people,” he says. “And it’s poverty-stricken.”

In 2007, Siuta and his family were given the opportunity to immigrate to New Zealand. Now a permanent resident, Siuta says his life ambition now is to give back to the islands he was raised in. “The reason I am studying is to help my people,” he says. “And I don’t just want to help Tonga, I want to help the whole Pacific.”

Siuta is on-track to fulfilling his goal. As part of his final project for a Master of Cyber Security last year, he undertook research in Tonga identifying potential security risks and vulnerabilities to the Government of Tonga computer system.

The Government of Tonga was impressed. In May, coincidentally during the global WannaCry ransomware attack, the University of Waikato and the Government of Tonga agreed to use and build upon Siuta’s research. Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding setting out a framework to work collaboratively on cyber security issues.

According to the World Economic Forum, the cost to the global economy of cybercrime is around US$445 billion a year, and this is only going to increase. Siuta says people simply don’t know enough about online security. “My research showed there are a lot of new issues people, even those in government, don’t know about,” he says. “I want to look for the root problems to protect the government and its people in the future.

“If we don’t develop a better understanding of cyber security and implement strategies as a society, cybercrimes will become commonplace,” says Siuta.

With so much knowledge in his field, it’s surprising to know that before 2011, Siuta had barely used a computer. It was in that year Siuta began a diploma in information technology. “I didn’t even know how to send emails,” he says. “I wanted to study a degree in business management because I had some experience in that field, but it meant I needed to know how to use a computer.” Siuta became fascinated with computers and decided to instead continue his studies with a degree in information technology.

Graduating from the University of Waikato with a Master of Cyber Security in front of his parents was a “dream come true” for Siuta. His parents flew from Tonga to witness his graduation alongside his wife, children and nephew. He says he shed a few tears, thankful his elderly parents were able to attend.

Siuta is the first in his direct family to attend university, now he will be the first from his island to have studied for a PhD. He’s interested in researching online scamming, something he says people fall victim to often. “What people don’t realise is that individuals aren’t committing online scams. There are criminal networks targeting people.” The prevalence and constant advancement of these scams is a cause for major concern. “It’s not that easy to recognise a scam,” says Suita.

There's an increasing international demand for trained cyber security professionals and the University of Waikato Master of Cyber Security is the first of its kind to be offered in New Zealand.

Applications for 2017 B semester are now open. Apply now or talk to us about options.

Related stories

2020 New Professors

University of Waikato announces new professorial appointments

Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley has recently acknowledged new Professors and Associate Professors of the University.

Imagimation and the University working together to provide practical education opportunities

Imagimation, a social enterprise based in Hamilton, has created a learning working environment for interns…

Emry Daniels

Recognition for Pacific student who quit his day job for a design degree

Video gaming, tech gadgets and te reo Māori inspired 41-year-old Emry Daniels to quit his…

Carolina Short

Design tutor’s font makes it big on Google

A fun project created to engage her design students has led University of Waikato Tutor…

Waikato students can “breathe easy” thanks to new scholarship

A new scholarship is available to University of Waikato students thanks to the generosity of…

Lead researcher Prof Albert Bifet

Waikato Data Scientists awarded $13 million

Data scientists at the University of Waikato have been awarded $13 million from the Government.

STEM Fest

Uni campus hosts STEM Festival in Tauranga

As a main sponsor of the country's first world-class STEM Festival (STEMFest) event, the University…

Armon Tamatea

University of Waikato secures more than $6m in MBIE research funding

The University of Waikato has received more than $6 million in research funding from the…

Kudos 2019

Time-of-flight technology and internet behaviour secure Kudos Awards for top researchers

Two University of Waikato researchers have been recognised for their scientific prowess at the Kudos…

Lynley St George

Student gets internship to NASA

A University of Waikato student has landed the opportunity of a life-time by securing an…

Jeremy Zolnai-Lucas

Nice work if you can get it

Young Londoner needs a job, walks into Waikato and becomes a research programmer.

University of Waikato partnership with Genomics Aotearoa

University of Waikato extends partnership with Genomics Aotearoa

Key leaders from the University of Waikato met with representatives from Genomics Aotearoa (GA) today…