Scholarship fast-tracks Leo helping people at risk of cyber attacks

26 October 2021

Leo Oliver-Dowling is well on his way to making a difference in the cyber security industry, thanks to scholarship support at the University of Waikato.

Thanks to scholarship support, current Master of Cyber Security student Leo Oliver-Dowling is well on his way to reaching his goal of helping protect internet users against malicious cyber attacks.

Leo is the 2021 recipient of the Sir William Gallagher Master of Cyber Security Scholarship, a scholarship set up in 2015 to support academically talented students studying towards a Master of Cyber Security at the University of Waikato. He received the scholarship at the end of his Bachelor of Science degree, recognising his outstanding grades and innovative thinking in the cyber security field.

From Raglan and educated at Hamilton Boys’ High School, Leo’s interest in computers began when he was 13 years-old. Following high school, he embarked on computer science studies at the University of Waikato and achieved well across his papers. But he says receiving the Masters scholarship completely changed his trajectory.

“I had originally planned to look for a job at the end of my undergraduate degree, but I saw this scholarship come up and thought I might as well give it a go, and when I got it I was stoked.”

During his undergraduate study Leo developed an interest in cryptovirology, the study of how cryptography is used to design malicious software, or malware.

Globally, hundreds of millions of cyber-attacks, often in the form of malware, occur every year and because they get more sophisticated over time, it can make detection more difficult. Cybersecurity is a growing industry in New Zealand and cyberattacks, once more prominent overseas, are becoming more common here. Leo hopes to change that.

“Thanks to my scholarship, I am working on increasing my knowledge and experience in cryptovirology, which will help cyber security specialists both respond to attacks as well as actively search for and remediate vulnerabilities in computer systems.

“The impacts of cybercrime are real – it can devastate businesses, communities and individuals. My goal is to work at the forefront of cyber security where I’m continuously learning about technology, but also helping people at the same time.”

Without the scholarship, Leo simply wouldn’t have thought about postgraduate study, which would have been a shame considering the industry is crying out for cyber security professionals.

“The scholarship has lightened my financial burden immensely, allowing me to focus on the most important part of university – learning, which coupled with the industry experience, means I’ll be able to get to work in the cyber security industry quicker than I would have otherwise.”

Donors encourage further support for scholarships

For over 80 years, Hamilton headquartered Gallagher has had a strong interest in encouraging and supporting people, including up and coming tech talent in the region. Gallagher President and Executive Director Sir William Gallagher is a long-standing supporter of the University of Waikato and has a particular interest in supporting students who will make an impact in the technology sector.

“As the world and its technologies become more integrated and complex, and we move towards an increasingly cyber environment, the potential for harm increases. Supporting great students to pursue their studies is one way we can help, so they can go on to make a positive impact in their field.

“Please join me in supporting scholarships at the University of Waikato so we can help more students like Leo get on their way to solving the world’s big problems.”

For more information and to make a donation, click here.

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