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Youssef El Malty

Youssef El Malty, BSc Computer Science

Youssef Elmalty - BSc Computer ScienceHead of Cyber Security, IBM

BSc Computer Science, 2007

What inspired you to choose to study at Middlesex University?

I chose Middlesex University because of its great reputation in the UK and worldwide. The university has received a Queen's Award for Enterprise, which is a prestigious honour in the UK. 

I also liked the fact Middlesex offers potential students access to a wide variety of programmes. I chose to study for a BSc in Computer Science.

Lastly, I was attracted by the multinational and multicultural experience the university offers to its students.

What one piece of advice would you give to a new student preparing to study at Middlesex?

Enjoy every moment of your time at Middlesex as there is nothing better than your time at university!

Middlesex University's degree programmes are comprehensive and informative so it is also important to make sure you do your part and study hard in order to get the most out of them. The quality of education the university offers is world class.

You should also make sure you make the most of your time interacting with other students as the diverse mix of the student population provides outstanding exposure to different cultures and mindsets.

Do you have a defining memory of your time at Middlesex? What makes this stand out in particular?

My defining memory is the time I spent in the programming laboratories and the time we spent trying to solve sophisticated IT problems. My class used to spend days and nights trying to do this and it was really good fun.

What made you want to study your course?

When I was young I used to hear stories about hackers and how much damage they cause. I wanted to be able to play my part in helping organisations protect themselves against these individuals.

A number of large and high profile companies such as Sony, Facebook and RSA (Royal Sun Alliance) have been victims of hacking. When these companies were impacted it came as a shock to all and generated extensive media coverage.

Nobody knows who will be the next target so organisations now take Information Security very seriously as hacking can pose a serious threat to their very existence.

Considerable changes to legislation mean companies are now legally obligated to comply with certain standards of Infor¬ma¬tion Security which has also meant greater emphasis has been placed on its importance. 

What did you enjoy most about your course?

My favourite part of my course was the time I spent learning about Information Security. We were taught how to solve computer security problems by design and learnt how to build secure and robust systems.

What was the most important thing that you learned during your course?

During my time at Middlesex I learnt how to solve real-life problems and think outside the box. I recall learning how to make a computer 'think' and take actions on its own through the use of artificial intelligence. That was really exciting.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

I deliberately chose Middlesex because of its solid reputation in the UK and worldwide. More over the academic staff are second to none when it comes to explaining complex aspects of computing in a very easy and understandable manner. The fact that the Computer Science programme is also incredibly detailed means you learn about almost every aspect of the science. I think all of these things helped me not only to build my knowledge and skills but secure a job at IBM as a security advisor to Fortune 500 companies.

What made you choose the industry you work in?

A job in Information Security provides you with almost endless options and the opportunity to work in various specialised areas. The good thing is you get exposure to all of these on a daily basis! This means the job is exciting and always keeps you interested.

It is such an interesting area as we are all impacted by Information Security on a daily basis – whether it is online bank accounts, phones, laptops, your house or your car.

Information Security can be about sophisticated cryptography or it can be about cross-shredding paper. It can even include writing hundred page policies and procedures to satisfy the IT auditor.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder after you graduated? Would you recommend this route?

Before graduating, I made a list of all the security companies I wanted to join and started to apply in advance of completing my degree. This gave me and the companies I was applying to enough time for mutual assessment. I would definitely recommend students adopt this approach so that they can secure a job as soon after graduation as possible.

When considering both study and job options, I think it is really important to identify an area that you love as this will help you to excel naturally and ensure you always have a passion for expanding your expertise in your chosen field.

Throughout my undergraduate course at Middlesex I was always passionate about the security aspect within each area I studied – be it operating systems, database or network security. Every year we had to do a project and for each I chose a security-related topic. My final graduation project focused on building a holistic data security system that combined Cryptography and Steganography. I received an A for this.

What advice would you give to those just starting out?

Security is a very fast paced industry. Hackers are working hard to bypass security controls all the time. You need to make sure you are always advancing your skills and knowledge to stay ahead of the curve. Make sure you learn and use different operating systems and programming languages. I would also advise those starting out to focus on the threats and risks that emerging technologies such as Cloud Computing, Quantum Computing and Virtualization face nowadays.

What would you say your career highlights are to date?

Becoming Head of Security and Risk Management for Growth Markets at IBM has been my career highlight to date. The geographic regions I look after include Latin America, Central East Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. My Team and I define and implement sophisticated security strategies for Fortune 500 companies so they can protect themselves against cyber security attacks and threats.

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