Women in Information Security: Tiberius Hefflinby@kim_crawley
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Women in Information Security: Tiberius Hefflin

by Kim CrawleyMarch 28th, 2017
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Last fall, I interviewed six women and non-males who have exciting careers in <a href="" target="_blank">cybersecurity</a>. Those articles were all published in <a href="" target="_blank">Tripwire’s State of Security blog</a>.

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Last fall, I interviewed six women and non-males who have exciting careers in cybersecurity. Those articles were all published in Tripwire’s State of Security blog.

Ideally, all people in our field, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, nationality, and sexual orientation, would simply be regarded as “people who work in information security.” Unfortunately, we work in a male dominated field, and sometimes dealing with sexism affects our careers.

I think it’s especially important to encourage more women and transgender people to consider careers in cybersecurity. So my interview series shines a spotlight on some of the brightest minds in our field — who just so happen to not be male.

My series was very well received. So, as spring arrived I decided to continue it. As of this writing, most of those new interviews have been done already and their corresponding articles have been sent to my editor at Tripwire. You can look forward to them being published on Tripwire’s blog in the coming weeks, probably starting in April.

Until then, I’ve decided to republish my interview series from last fall here. Please enjoy them!

And if you can spare a few bucks, please consider contributing to my Patreon. I don’t get paid for my Medium published articles, and the trickle of money here and there that I receive from my generous patrons helps keep me going. Thank you!

There’s also a way you can help me that won’t cost you any money at all. Click on the little green heart if you like my article, it’ll help with my visibility. Most appreciated!

Information security is the fastest growing area of IT. It affects more people in more ways than ever before. It affects not only our public records, our utilities, our white-collar work, and our entertainment. Now that we carry small computers in our pockets and in our cars, talk of the Internet of Things (IoT) is also starting to become reality. That’s no laughing matter. IoT is probably the biggest challenge information security has ever faced.

Despite the growth of information security, we’ve actually seen a decline in women computer science graduates. According to Deloitte, 37 percent of American computer science graduates were women in 1985. Although microcomputers or PCs had been around since about 1976, there were still many offices without them at that time. But Bjarne Stroustrup published the first edition of The C++ Programming Language. The_MIT Media Lab_ was founded. Things were looking up!

Fast forward to 2013. Most adults now had touchscreen smartphones, a relative luxury in 2007. Intel had been producing 22nm CPUs for two years. The large majority of households in the developed world had been enjoying internet access for years, and that tempted younger generations to begin cutting landlines and cable television.

But what percentage of American computer science graduates were women? Eighteen percent. That’s less than half of 1985’s figure!

The truth is clear: we must get more women into information security. We must get more non-binary gender people, as well. I’m a woman who writes about information security, and I figured that speaking to other women would be a great place to start. How did they get into the field? What’s it like for them?

The first woman I spoke to was Tiberius Hefflin, a security assurance analyst who’s spoken at Open Source Bridge, PyConAu, PyDX, BSidesPDX and other industry conferences.

KC: How did you get into computing?

TH: My dad is a network architect. He made sure I had a computer from a young age, and I helped him a lot when I was growing up. I actually only went to university to do IT when I was 25, though. I was doing a welding apprenticeship out of high school and eventually ended up in HR (human resources) before deciding to do IT.

KC: You probably had other motives for getting into IT other than your father’s footsteps?

TH: I get to help people a lot more in IT. Not only that, but IT is something I really enjoy. I like the technical aspects of it. Even so, following my dad was a large part of it. He’s been pretty inspirational in my life. He’s all network, so I did my HND in networking. I hated it. I thought for sure I’d made a huge mistake taking this risk to go to university so late in life. Then I stumbled into infosec and fell in love. Haven’t looked back since.

KC: How exactly did you stumble into infosec?

TH: I had a security-related assignment. It changed everything for me. I had always been interested in security-related news items, so I think it was a natural inclination. Also, what kid from the 90s didn’t love the movie Hackers?

KC: Yeah! Are you allowed to describe the nature of your security assignment?

TH: At the time, it was super low-level. My team was creating a network proposal and had to consider the security elements. I was able to intern with the Scottish Police Services Authority the summer after, and I got to work a little with their security team. That really cemented my interest.

KC: So there was an element of digital forensics? Metadata, stuff like that?

TH: I think that assignment was mostly referencing firewalls and user group permissions. I wasn’t able to do digital forensics stuff until university. I really enjoy that part of security, though. It’s fascinating. My digital forensics course was one of the first in the country, so we had to agree to a lot of clauses about what we would and wouldn’t use our knowledge for. It was kinda like Jedi training.

KC: That’s really cool. What was the gender balance like in school?

TH: There were two women on the course out of about 40 students. My course leader was a woman, but I think she felt she had a lot to prove. I think as women in a male-dominated field, we are pushed to excel. I also think that women who feel impostor syndrome push themselves harder than we need to. What I mean is that being aware that we are seen differently, that we are the odd ones out, so to speak. So we work harder to try to fit in.

KC: You’re absolutely right.

You can follow Tiberius Hefflin on Twitter at @WhataTiberius.

If you enjoyed my article, there are two ways that you can help me.

First, you can click on the little green heart to recommend my article.

Secondly, you can make a small donation to my Patreon. Thank you!