Dr Maslina Daud is in the business of protecting her clients in cyberspace, and over half of her staff are women... armed with the prowess of critical thinking.
“Women are meticulous and analytical thinkers. These skills are especially vital in the cybersecurity industry. They are very detailed and excel in finding solutions, completing reports and unearthing new research data, ” says the senior vice president of Cyber Security Proactive Services of Cyber Security Malaysia (CSM), an agency under the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia.
Dr Maslina heads four departments - Information Security Management and Assurance, Cryptography Development, Malaysian Security Evaluation Facility, and Malaysian Vulnerability Assessment Centre.Out of 67 staff, 39 are women. Her team works hard to unearth solutions to protect devices, softwares and programmes from cyber attacks.
Dr Maslina debunks the common notion that cybersecurity is a male-dominated job.
“Employment boils down to having the right skill set, attitude, and passion for the job. Women are meticulous, rational and detailed, while men are more technical and hands-on with handling equipment and learning new tasks. We get great results when their set skills are combined, ” says Dr Maslina, the only woman in CSM's senior management staff, comprising 10 men.
“My male colleagues are very professional and trust me to lead four sections. I am taken seriously and my voice is heard. The only thing is I have to listen in to their funny male jokes once in a while, ” says Dr Maslina in jest. She holds a Masters in Business Administration, and PhD in Cybersecurity.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, a researcher in global cybersecurity, women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce. In 2013, the figure stood at 11%. Dr Maslina is hence happy to report that her team bucks this global trend with its equal participation of men and women.
She believes the key to getting more women to work in tech is to spread awareness on the various opportunities available.
“The problem is that women assume they cannot climb up the ladder in this field. Maybe it’s because they don’t see many women holding high positions in the industry. But that isn’t true. Many women hold senior positions at CSM, and this proves women can excel in this field, ” says Dr Maslina.
She adds there’s also the issue of women assuming they do not have the skills set to venture into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
“Though cybersecurity is considered technical work, it is unlike the job of a petroleum engineer or geologist, which requires more physical effort and working on offshore rigs. We focus on issues like security risks and governance, cloud security, assessing security vulnerabilities and evaluating cryptography modules and algorithms. These steps are vital to ensure data and networking systems are protected from cyber criminals as well as internal employees, ” explains Dr Maslina, who has been with CSM for 17 years.
Prior to CSM, the computer science degree holder worked in different organisations as a program analyst, system analyst and information risk manager.
Ensure your data is protected
At Menara Cyber Axis, Dr Maslina and her team work on a range of cyber security innovation-led services and programmes to reduce the vulnerability of digital systems. It includes tests on software and network protocol systems, biometric security tests and research on vulnerabilities of automated robotics.
Such tests are a must as it helps to lessen the potential losses due to cybersecurity incidences. A 2018 study by Frost & Sullivan predicts Malaysia could face the possibility of losing over RM50 bil (US$12 bil) due to cyber security incidences.
“Our team is constantly keeping up to date with the latest technologies to prevent cybersecurity issues from occurring. Our biggest worry is criminals who hack into encrypted software programmes and alter details. It is dangerous when they hack into hospital records, pharmaceutical companies and other organisations. It can cost the loss of lives and millions, if not billions, of ringgit, ” says Dr Maslina, who encourages Malaysians to be extra careful with personal information shared on the cloud and social media.
Dr Maslina’s job scope is undoubtedly challenging as her work requires her to be at the highest level of preparedness. It boils down to good time management and working with a dedicated team, she says.
The mother-of-two, who hails from Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, is blessed to have supportive family members throughout her career progression.
“Raising two children independently was tough. There were many times I felt like I couldn’t take on the challenges. I think many career mothers find it hard to climb up the ladder as they struggle to juggle between family commitments and work. I am grateful my mother and sister helped to raise my children when I had to work late or travel outstation," says the single mother. Her son, Amiroul Farhan Roslaini, 30, has followed in her footsteps and works as a security analyst in Cyberjaya. Her 28-year-old daughter, Amanda Farhana, is a lawyer.
To succeed in the industry, Dr Maslina encourages women to keep abreast of the latest and emerging technologies.
“Technology changes so fast and new technologies can introduce new threats. We need to explore these new threats and how to overcome them. It is important to have relevant certification too, ” says Dr Maslina, who spends about an hour each night surfing the Net for research material on cybersecurity and threats.
The job scope is undoubtedly challenging but Dr Maslina thinks women have what it takes to venture into this industry.
“The main thing is passion. With that, women wouldn’t mind going through the challenges to create their path in the industry. They must be strong to face challenges and know how to resolve them.”
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