Why I love working in cyber security – Ann Barron

Worn many hats

My journey into Cyber Security isn’t typical for a middle-aged woman and I do enjoy people’s reactions when I respond to the question, ‘what do you do for a living?’

During my life I have worn many hats and had a variety of jobs – but, they were mostly just that: ‘jobs’. Things I did to financially support my actual purpose of raising my children.  As my youngest two moved into their more independent teenage years, I realised that my purpose was becoming part-time and, on the horizon, I could see a looming void… no… an opportunity for a new role, a new me. I didn’t know what, at that stage, other than it would be something very far away from my kitchen.

Sucker for gadgets

I enrolled at University to do a degree in Computing, which I imagined would build on my dated Secretarial qualifications and experience. Learning how to code appealed to my creative side and being such a sucker for gadgets, robotics and new technologies, the degree offered a taste of it all.

At the end of year one, we were asked to choose from a list of five courses to study for the remainder of the degree:

  1. Computing – didn’t seem too exciting.
  2. Gaming – I loved the creativity but as I was at a loss why 50% of the class were awake all night playing Fortnite, clearly, I was lacking basic concepts!
  3. Computer Science – I felt this was for geniuses – not old farts.
  4. Networking – maybe?
  5. Computer and Information Security – So, what’s this all about?

Option 5 pricked my interest, and after learning more about the course, I knew there was no other option for me.  I remember listening to the Course Leader explain the ways in which hackers exploit vulnerabilities in networks.  I remember raising my hand and naively asking, “Why?”:  I had no idea of the scale of Cyber Crime.

Furious and terrified

I felt both furious and terrified, as I considered my self-built computer – my pride and joy. After my first year at University, I had emerged from my kitchen with a screwdriver in one hand and a Solid-State Drive (SSD) in the other, designed, built and configured: my greatest achievement… without a single thought about security!  I could feel the blood drain from my body and can clearly recall the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Soapbox topic of choice

I was enraged that people who don’t even know us sit there, quietly devising ways of stealing our identities, emptying our bank accounts, taking down our businesses and potentially ruining our lives – sometimes for their own profit but often just for fun.  How do these people sleep at night?  This has become my ‘soapbox’ topic of choice and I can rant for lengthy periods about these lowlifes.

However, these ‘lowlifes’ have given me more than a purpose… they have given me a mission.  As a Cyber Security Consultant with Securious, I am in the privileged position of helping organisations become Cyber Aware and helping them configure their network devices in order to reach optimum security.  A University conducted some research and discovered that if networks are configured to the Cyber Essentials standard, they will be protected for 80% of the most common Cyber Attacks.

Each time we help an organisation achieve Cyber Essentials (Plus), I share their ‘win’ on a personal level.  I understand what it’s like to be unaware, I understand the terror that the moment of realising that your system is vulnerable brings, but most of all I understand how irritated 80% of opportunistic attackers will be when they can’t find a way in and I can’t describe the satisfaction that brings me.

 

This post was written by Ann, one of our Cyber Security Consultants