What is Cyber-security?
“Increasingly we are relying on the internet for our day to day lives, things like our cars are becoming connected, and even fridges are becoming connected, so we are connecting together and connecting to the internet all the time. However, we need to protect all the information we put on there and how we operate on-line” Helen L, National Cyber-security Centre, GCHQ
Cyber-security refers to the technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. Attacks can be at an individual personal level or right up to National State level. They are usually aimed at accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information; extorting money from users; or interrupting normal business processes. Cyber-security is important because government, military, corporate, financial, and medical organizations collect, process, and store unprecedented amounts of sensitive data on computers and other devices.
Cyber-security is a fast growing career field with an estimated 1 million unfilled cyber-security jobs worldwide. Women only make up 25% of the current cyber-security workforce, according to a 2022 Women in Cyber-security Report (ref below).
With the significant rise of daily cyber threats and attacks, this is a significant opportunity for women to enter the field given the severe labor shortages and under-representation of women. Cyber-security is no longer just a technology issue, it is a business one too. Women are welcome from different career sectors and diverse backgrounds.
According to the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), quoted in Forbes,
“50% of professional occupations in the U.S. are held by women, and …… 25% of computing occupations in the U.S. are held by women. That leaves tremendous headroom for women to enter the fast-growing cyber-security market, which is expected to grow from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion by 2020."
Having reached USD 172.32 billion in 2023, latest predictions by Fortune Business Insights expect the global cyber-security industry to reach USD 424.97 billion in 2030.
To see the full 2022 Women in Cyber-security report, see here
To read more on cyber-security industry predictions, see here
Job roles in cyber-security:
- Security Analyst
- Security Architect
- Security Engineer
- Security Administrator
- Security Consultant
- Chief Information Security Officer
More at the following two links: https://www.learnhowtobecome.org/computer-careers/cyber-security/
Common types of cyber-security threats:
Ransomware - a type of malicious software designed to extort money by blocking access to files or a computer system until the ransom is paid.
Malware - a type of software designed to gain unauthorized access or to cause damage to a computer system.
Social engineering - a tactic that is used to trick users into revealing sensitive information. They can solicit a monetary payment or gain access to your confidential data. Social engineering can be combined with any of the threats listed above to make you more likely to click on links, download malware, or trust a malicious source.
Phishing – attackers send fraudulent emails or text or copycat websites from reputable sources. The aim is to steal valuable personal information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, account numbers and login IDs and passwords. It’s the most common type of cyber-attack.
 Forbes link
Women and online threats
Staying safe online is an important part of cyber security for every-day users of social media and other internet sites. Women are more likely to be threatened online than men, and this can take the form of virtual harassment and abuse, doxxing (revealing an internet user's personal data), and tracking a user through their photo and video sharing (their EFIX data). A guide created by WizCase (link below) covers important areas such as the safe sharing of photos and media, protecting yourself from anonymous and discriminatory messages on social media, and how to report virtual harassment. It also provides resources and tips for parents of young social media users on how to handle online harassment.
Women and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Over the course of 2023, AI has developed exponentially with the creation of AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, Bard AI and Bing AI, that can simulate human conversation in response to customer questions. Similar developments have also been made in the art world, with AI technology now able to produce artworks, music and photographs. In August 2022, an AI-generated artwork won the Colorado State Fair, prompting concerns over copyright legislation. While AI is developing rapidly with no clear indication of how governments will regulate it, this problem is even more concerning given that women only make up 26% of the data and AI workforce, according to a 2020 World Economic Forum Report (ref below).
If this figure remains so low, AI algorithms will continue to be dominated by male perspectives. To reduce the resulting gender bias, it is crucial that the representation of women in the data and AI field increases. At present, AI algorithms determine the information and images we are exposed to. In the future, AI could be used by companies to screen potential job candidates, and by security applications to develop facial recognition software. A gender bias in AI algorithms therefore poses a risk to civil rights in the future. Already, there has been an uptake in the cyber-harassment of women using AI-generated images that depict women in compromising or violent situations.
There is no indication that the number of women in data and AI will increase organically. In 2019, the women made up 22% of PhD programmes in North America, only a 4% increase from 2010.
To see the full 2020 World Economic Forum Report, see here.
To read more on gender bias in AI algorithms, see here.
To read more on AI cyber-harassment, see here.
Masters in Data Science have also issued a guide for women in STEM fields, with practical advice on why women and girls should pursue STEM careers, closing the gender gap, and some useful resources: see here
The International Telecommunication Union has developed a campaign, Girls in ICT Toolkit, for 2023, promoting events and activities that support girls learning about STEM fields. They are encouraging a sharing of events across social media using #GirlsInICT to spread awareness: see here
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