Why does Cyberwar need more women?

As if Corona was not enough, the confinement was the « perfect » opportunity for cybercriminals to let their imagination run wild. Why? Simply because people are staying home and using their computers, phones, tablets and IOTs more than usual. And its an international issue, hence the Cyberwar in the title.

And with the rise of unemployment and home working worldwide, people are more vulnerable to scams. Either via phone, emails or even with lottery tickets, dating apps, banking services, charity requests… Scams are getting more and more ingenious. Even the scam emails are sometimes so similar to the real deal, that the untrained person would click without a second thought on the link. I personally had several occurrences where I had to warn friends and family from scams and other cyberattacks. Especially young parents and female acquaintances as many were easily sharing corrupted links via whatsapp (The famous prayer link or the cursed link…) or Facebook messenger…

One of the main reason why the hardware (Mobile, Computer, Tablet…) and IOTs lack security for women and children is because women are rarely consulted when making one. Or when to define an adequate IT security strategies for companies. As a woman in the IT security field, my approach to problem resolution and my analysis of vulnerabilities and attack opportunities differ from my male counterpart. Many vital privacy and safety concerns are overlooked by various IT experts and are deemed unnecessary. Which is annoying as they tend to overlook the fact that the regular user is not an IT genius nor will they take the time to read the fine print. People are fast consumers and need the service to be done well and fast as the security is supposed to be managed by the provider/owner of the platform/app.

And we see that with social media attacks as children and women are easy targets as various platforms enable sex trafficking scams and sexually abusive content. Not to mention the many cases of revenge porn and identity theft. We see it as well with applications like Uber or any ride sharing ones, as the data and identity of the customer is not protected. If you use apps for the period calendar, you may not know it but they share the personal data with other apps, same goes for dating and shopping ones.

Recently, many smart devices like the Smart Home or IOTs used to monitor children were hacked by hackers and pedophiles. Many videos showing private conversations are posted on Youtube by parents and they are chilling.

And these incidents could have been prevented if more women have been involved in the end-to-end service delivery/solution process. I am talking about having women involved from the idea/concept definition, to the development and integration with third parties. I noticed it when I was working as a project manager. I noticed many flaws in the UX/UI as I started testing the website by emulating a single mother or a young student that uses computers for the office suite. When I was working as a Business analyst, I noticed as well that incident/problem management processes did not take into account people who do not have access to a phone with subscription or with unlimited data. Which meant that this process, was not taking into account people with less income or who cant afford to stay on the phone to fix a problem.Same for a project in the banking domain, I noticed that the financial process was not taking into account the case of children without a parent or the identity theft situation in case of a phone being stolen…

When it comes to human interaction, human needs and how IOT and/or services provided should interact with the user, women have much to contribute in terms of defining the visual needs and proactively identifying potential incidents that may occur from an everyday use.

Seeing as the cyberwar and technology in general are mostly seen as masculine fields of work, we are in urgent need of women cyberdefenders to challenge these large systems that marginalize women. We need to have more female presence in the proactive and defensive domain. As the risks increase, the valuable input women bring is now a must-have.