Gov-Linked “Fatima” Cybersecurity Career Advert Removed After Backlash

A campaign intended to attract more people to career opportunities in cybersecurity has come under heavy criticism and been removed after only a few hours.

A poster which showed a woman named “Fatima” dressed as a ballet dancer said her “next job could be in cyber – she just doesn’t know it yet” came under criticism after it was announced the UK government was encouraging those in performing arts to retrain for other careers.

Initially it was unclear as to who was behind the campaign, with it featuring the branding of DCMS and NCSC’s Cyber First campaign. Secretary of State for DCMS Oliver Dowden dismissed any involvement with the campaign, saying “this is not something from DCMS” and he agreed “it was crass.”

He explained the advert was from “a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cybersecurity.” However, the campaign was outsourced to tech skills company QA, while a spokesperson for the NCSC confirmed the campaign was created by DCMS using the NCSC’s Cyber First course materials, which is aimed at children and students, to be repurposed for adults in this new campaign.

It was also revealed that the photo of “Fatima” was a stock image from a US photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. This was apparently one of a series of articles due to be released, however a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

In an email to Infosecurity, Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, said the poster did come across as tone deaf. “With any career, you want to pull people towards it and motivate them to want to choose it,” he said. “It's only when people enjoy, have an interest in, or have a passion for a role that they actually have a sense of achievement and contentment.

“The overall vibe of the poster came across as anyone who spent time in the arts (which is a passion for most) wasted their time and have no career prospects, so should do something like cybersecurity. Just because there is a vacancy in a field, it doesn't mean you can push anyone into it. If anything, it will only serve as a temporary measure which people will begrudgingly undertake until they can move onto something that offers them fulfilment.”

Infosecurity has reached out to DCMS for further comment.

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