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DfirLabs | Women are not just cybersecurity salespeople

By • Jason Jordaan | Principal Forensic Analyst | DfirLabs

I have been very lucky to have travelled the world and attended many cybersecurity conferences. At these conferences, we get to see the latest and greatest in terms of cybersecurity solutions. What is interesting to me is just how many of these vendors are fronted by very attractive woman. Then when you look at high profile women in the cybersecurity industry, the dis-proportionate number of them occupy non-technical or scientific roles. It seems to me that when it comes to cybersecurity, the women that are seen in this industry are the salespeople and those with client-facing roles. It is common knowledge that the information technology industry is dominated, from a gender perspective, by males. My concern is that I see the same perceived domination in the cybersecurity space.

My problem with the perception that the key role of women in cybersecurity is in those areas -which in my opinion is being driven by vendors- is that it diminishes the valuable contribution that women have made to cybersecurity around the world. We need to stop, as an industry, the practice of treating women like cybersecurity salespeople.

I have been very privileged to work with some amazing women in the field of digital forensics and cybersecurity not just in South Africa, but around the world and I feel it is important to celebrate them, to show people exactly what women have contributed to what people perceive to be a male-dominated industry. I wish I had space to name them all and their achievements.

On one hand, we have Veronica Schmitt, a young South African woman who threw herself into a career in digital forensics and is now embarked upon a worldwide crusade to make implantable medical devices more secure. Not only is she one of the leading digital forensic practitioners in Africa, but she has also become a worldwide name when it comes to medical device security, as she has presented her research on a global stage. She is taking a personal role in securing the lives of people who are dependent on these devices for their very existence.

Then we have Heather Mahalik from the United States of America, who is one of the faculty heads of the prestigious SAN Institute DFIR Faculty. She is one of the leading mobile device digital forensic practitioners and researchers in the world. Law enforcement and private sector examiners constantly make use of her work and research in theirs.

This is a woman who has conducted some of the most interesting digital forensic examinations of mobile devices in the world. For example, she was the digital forensics examiner who processed the mobile phones of Osama bin Laden after the infamous SEAL raid. She is leading the world in terms of the path to be followed when it comes to digital forensics on mobile devices.

Finally, we have Evie Theophanous from Cyprus, an amazing law enforcement officer who is currently working with Europol in the Netherlands in the E3 cyber-crime centre. Here she is playing a pivotal role in assisting European law enforcement in conducting digital investigations and other cybercrime investigations, specifically targeting organized crime in Europe. Not only is she actively involved in putting some of the most terrible cyber criminals behind bars, but she is also giving back to the digital forensics community by training the next generation of international law enforcement officers, by coaching and mentoring them, and sharing her knowledge on an international stage every year in the United States and Europe where she participates in training up to 500 perspective digital forensic investigators every year.

I’m lucky to consider these amazing women to be my close friends, even family, and constantly look at them inspired by the passion, commitment, and the deep technical and scientific knowledge that they possess.

Make no doubt about it, they are very attractive women, but what is most attractive about them are their amazing minds, and how these minds are all contributing to the betterment of society and making a safer world. They are certainly not cybersecurity salesmen.

These should be the role models that women who are interested in cybersecurity should aspire to.

These are the women who are a true example of the real value that women can bring to the field of cybersecurity.

We as an industry should be celebrating them, and all the tens of thousands like them across the world.

These are my heroes and I would go to war with them any day.

Until next issue, stay safe!