If you’ve ever been to a big cybersecurity event, you’ll often find that the best conversations take place in the smallest venues. Sure enough, away from the crowds of the RSA Conference 2017 in Singapore, four of the world’s leading cybersecurity experts gathered to discuss the not-so-simple topic of how to tackle some of the most fundamental cybersecurity challenges holistically.
Fixing the Talent Shortage
Chairing the panel, Dr Hugh Thompson, CTO of Symantec, raised the critical issue of cybersecurity talent, or lack of, and asked the panel what are the best approaches to rectify the shortfall.
One major improvement would be to help students and professionals understand that there are multiple pathways to a career in cybersecurity. Speaking of her own experience, Diana Kelley, global executive security advisor at IBM, explained that she started off as an English Major. “You can write poetry and you can write code; you don’t have to be the person in the basement, you don’t have to be Mr Robot. There are many different skills that come to bare. Helping students understand that there are multiple pathways, or creating other pathways into the industry can really help.” Kelley also stressed the need to encourage women to join as well as stay within the industry.
Picking up on this point, Zulfikar Ramzan, chief technology officer at RSA, added that the common perception of a cybersecurity professional needs to change. “About Mr Robot, technically it’s well done, it’s very accurate, which is unusual for Hollywood, but I don’t like the image of a hacker in a hoody. If you’re a woman or somebody who’s not already in security, this image would be a turn off. If we alienate half the population, we won’t be able to solve [cybersecurity] comprehensively.”
Speaking of the Singapore experience, Benjamin Ang, senior fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), commended the steps already taken by the government to provide greater funding towards education, retraining as well as incorporating cybersecurity training into national service. Beyond that, Ang suggested one action that could benefit countries across all Asia: the decriminalisation of whitehat activities. “When [whitehats] reveal vulnerabilities, this can result in them being brought in for police questioning; this does not help. Instead, we need to find a way to integrate them.”
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