Guest Editor: Breaking the Barriers of Security

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When I first started my degree, I knew next to nothing about cybersecurity. I knew I wanted to be an ethical hacker, but I probably couldn’t get far without even knowing how to use Linux command line! This was my first barrier. My first year of university was tough; it felt like I was constantly fumbling around in the dark – not knowing what I was doing. I was losing sight of my dream. Add to this un-nerving fear of failure the isolation I felt being one of the only few females on the degree course, and I was pretty close to giving up and throwing the towel in. There was this low-key pressure to conform to the stereotypical ‘cyber-geek’ and being massively out-numbered by males was definitely off-putting. However, I’m glad I persevered, as without doing so I wouldn’t be living my dream career ‘IRL'.

With the help from brilliant organizations like Cyber Security Challenge UK and online resources such as Immersive Labs and HacktheBox I was soon able to re-ignite my dream. Embarking on ethical hacking competitions and completing online labs helped sharpen my skills and keep my mind engaged with the subject. Cybersecurity is such a dynamic industry, no two days are ever the same – you are always on your toes and constantly having to learn to keep up with the evolution of the security landscape. I struggled with the concept a lot at the start of my journey and although challenging and demanding, it is extremely rewarding – and this is exactly why I chose this career path.

“I have come to embrace that these barriers have helped shape the budding security professional I am today – and I cannot wait for what the future will bring”

About two years ago, I started to get involved with Cyber Security Challenge UK’s competitions. Since then, I have qualified to represent the UK in the European Cyber Security Challenge two years consecutively and have qualified for their annual national competition ‘Masterclass’ twice in parallel. I first commenced with their online qualifiers, and eventually worked my way to the next level of ‘Face-to-Face’ competitions. In less than six months from embarking on their competition circuit, I was taken aback when I qualified for both the Masterclass competition and Team UK at my first higher competition – this was the self-esteem boost I needed to realize that my dream career was actually attainable.

Now in the third year of my degree, I am currently on placement as a junior security consultant and pen-testing intern. I have a series of awards under my belt, including Best Newcomer to Cyber Security and Best New Security Blog. I talk at conferences and sit on panels around the country and I actively talk to schools and deliver workshops to inspire the younger generation. I still face the same barriers I did three years ago, when I was starting my journey into the industry. I still suffer from imposter syndrome, the occasional isolation felt being one of the few females in the industry, and cyber threats will never stop evolving and advancing in the modern age. However, I have come to embrace that these barriers have helped shape the budding security professional I am today – and I cannot wait for what the future will bring.

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