Helping to support our future cyber-defenders

Feb 13, 2017 5:29am

women in cybersecurityIn the information security field, hopeful news can be a little hard to come by. The volume, severity, variety and evasiveness of threats are growing. And while the shortfall of talent is growing, the percentage of women in information security is shrinking. But bad news is not the whole story, nor is it a fixed destination. Interacting with the people who are just coming into this industry has been a tremendous source of hope and inspiration for me.

I’ve spent much of the last few years talking to young men and women about technology and security in particular; their enthusiasm is absolutely contagious, and the ease with which they connect to new technology is impressive. But the education they need to make the transition to careers in information security can be a bit hard to come by. School districts often lack the funds and the experienced teachers they need to help them explore computer-related topics. Students often go to great lengths to learn about these topics outside of school. 

While this situation is not ideal, it paints a clear picture of the passion that students and adult volunteers have for this field that they’re willing to go to such great lengths to learn. This can be especially tough for girls, as there is still a feeling in some circles that science and mathematics are subjects better suited to boys.

Unsurprisingly, when I do meet girls who have succeeded in going that extra mile to pursue an interest in technology, they are incredibly smart and motivated individuals. Each summer I join a team of mentors for the Cyber Boot Camp that is organized by Securing Our eCity. Each year we have at least a few girls, and in 2015, 40 percent of the attendees were female. That year, the participants included a team of middle school-aged girls who were so articulate and forthright it blew us all away. You can see a glimpse of that in this segment from VOA News. 

The girls in Cyber Boot Camp are often the glue that holds the whole camp group together, helping their teammates and kids from other teams get to know each other and ensuring that everyone gets the most of this learning experience. That’s a theme I often see with women in this industry. They work incredibly hard to achieve their own success, and yet they still manage to expend additional effort to help others around them.

In 2016 I was part of the team reviewing applications for ESET’s first annual Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship. The applicants were all incredibly impressive, with well-established track records of undergraduate work in technology and security. More than that, they all had spent time volunteering their expertise to help other people learn to secure themselves. After reading the application of the inaugural winner of last year’s scholarship, Chelsie Power, I was overwhelmed: it would be the industry’s collective loss if someone so skilled, dedicated and passionate did not take her place in our ranks.

This year ESET is increasing the amount awarded by the scholarship and expanding the search nationwide. I’m eager to see this year’s crop of applicants; meeting the next generation of security professionals always fills me with tremendous hope for the future.

About the Author

Lysa Myers is a security researcher at IT security firm ESET. Myers researches malware and the latest cyber threats and provides practical cybersecurity analysis and advice to the public.