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Q&A: Dr Simon Placks, Ernst & Young

We speak to the head of the forensics team - and Leader Board member - about his role helping to catch the bad guys.

Describe your role in three words.

Catching criminal hackers.

Who is your tech hero? And why?

That's a difficult question. I'd have to thank Hermann Hauser, Andy Hopper and Chris Curry for bringing us Acorn Computers.

What does your current role involve?

I lead a team that specialises in cyber crime investigations. We use computer forensics techniques and our investigative experience to uncover the who', what', when' and how' of a cyber attack. We also specialise in software piracy and intellectual property theft investigations.

How did you arrive at your current role?

My PhD research focused on how people deceive others online, and psychological methods we can use to detect them. A job for a forensic computing expert witness was advertised within the Research Centre on campus and it seemed like a good fit. I have always been deeply interested in the sociological and psychological interrelation between people and technology.

Did you always want to work in IT?

Yes. A child of the 80's I grew up programming Acorns and BBCs.

What do you enjoy most about your role/working in IT?

It's a highly creative profession. Not many people appreciate that. There's an artistry to designing software out of thin air to solve novel problems. The full potential of any piece of computing equipment can never be fully realised. IT is about exploration, creativity and discovering uncharted ground.

And what is your least favourite aspect about your role/working in IT?

During corporate investigations people aren't always pleased to see you. You regularly encounter defensive behaviours or aggression and have to take this in your stride. Ultimately, it's my job to gather evidence to help determine the truth behind an incident and not everyone wants to help

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