Esther Lim - a cybersec professional started running group learning sessions from her home in Jan 2017. Almost every 2nd Saturday she has taught a group of female IT students from universities across Melbourne the art of cyber hacking or cyber security. This was all in preparation for CySCA the national cybersec challenge held just this week (May 2017). Our team members are from RMIT, Unimelb and Swinburne Uni.
The numbers of women studying IT are in decline and the number of women world wide in cyber security currently sits at a dismal 10%.
Esther Lim is passionate about increasingy these numbers which is why she set up what we call "hackhers" - to train women in the art of cyber security. None of us had learned any of what she taught us at uni so what she brings in both passion and practical skills are invaluable. She generously gives up her house to a burgeoning team of 9 women and 26 members on the slack channel every 2nd weekend and every weekend in the weeks before a big challenge such as #CySCA.
She is fully self-taught in the field of cybersec and currently holds a position as a pentester at Deloitte, where she organised for all of us to hack from, for the full 24 hour period of CySCA.
We all went from zero hacking skills to placing very well in the competition with various levels of learning from 5 months to a few weeks in my case and one session in another case.
As I understand it, hackers runs via word of mouth at the moment but we are looking into setting up a website so as to have a public presence and way to teach others. We all actively recruit via word of mouth.
No resistance that I know of as it's purely volunteer based, but no ready funding either. I know from personal stories however, that women in cybersec aren't always warmly received at industry events purely because of their gender. Any look at the comments section on any article about the lack of women in any area of IT will quickly confirm these types of attitudes unfortunately. What is true is that very recently quite a few members have experienced others in the field telling them that cybersecurity wasn't right for them - our solution is to share our experiences, rally around each other and battle on to prove the naysayers wrong.
Deloitte have been super supportive as they hosted the women's teams at their Melbourne office and provided catering and access to showers which was wonderful. The sessions at Esther's are currently on hold until September. But we will continue as a group at my place once a month while Esther takes a break.
Elizabeth Bonny at Swinburne University 0481 085 583
Di Loi at RMIT University 0433 667 880
Both members of "Hackhers"
And - me - Brigitte Lewis.
The RMIT all women's team of 4 people placed 39th out of 76 ranked teams - note not all teams get ranked as you only get a ranking if you get a flag.
The Swinburne all women's team of three, some of who only had 3 hours on the game network before connectivity issues ensued placed 57th.
Everyone is interested in forging a career in cyber security after not necessarily having previously thought it was an option. It's a win win for IT at large and cyber security which is in desperate need of more women to address issues such as the high level of cyber attacks and social engineering focused on women and the lack of women working on solutions to address the issue.