In the words of Dr B R Ambedkar, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” Drawing inspiration from these words is Shruthi Kamath, ethical hacker and security analyst with Infosys.
Computer security, broadly encompassing internet and mobile, is a field that is predominantly male dominated. Shruthi and a few other likeminded women are pushing the boundaries and trying to pave the way for more women who can hop on to this platform and narrow the gender divide.
Shruthi hails from Udupi and is a certified ethical hacker from EC Council. She has conducted a workshop on Cyber Security and Ethical Hacking for more than 100 women at c0c0n 2014 and has made a presentation on Secure SDLC at c0c0n conference 2013. She has participated in Jailbreak NULLCON 2014 and is an active member of Null/OWASP Bangalore chapter. She is passionate about learning new things in this domain and her area of interest is web application security.
Shruthi also has to her credit a talk on cybercrime in India and its mitigation that she gave at the national conference for women police officers organized by Kerala Police at Trivandrum. “It was an honour for me to address 200 women police officers of different ranks from all over the country. I enjoyed interacting with them and it was inspirational,” says Shruthi.
Shruthi did her schooling from Udupi and actively participated in extra-curricular activities, especially elocution competitions. As a result of this, taking part in talks and presentations comes very easily to her. More importantly, it has always been a passion.
Shruthi did her engineering from Amrita School of Engineering in Bangalore. “It was my first time away from home; it was indeed a great learning experience to be independent.” She got a placement at Infosys and has been with them for two and a half years.
Shruthi was fascinated by “hacking” but never knew how to get started in this domain. At Infosys, security was part of her training where she got a chance to learn about InfoSec, which helped her get started in this domain. Her mentor then introduced her to Null -the Open Security Community. This led her to greener pastures and she began attending hands-on sessions and monthly meets, which got her even more interested in InfoSec. “This domain is very exciting as there are new discoveries every other day so the learning never ends,” she says.
According to Shruthi there are a large number of women in India working as security analysts but the Information Security (InfoSec) industry still lacks their active participation in events like meet-ups and conferences held across India.In the vast ocean of mobile, internet security, web application security and information security, every small step is equivalent to a giant leap. Shruthi and another fellow ethical hacker Apoorva have joined hands and have conducted exclusive workshops for women on InfoSec.
“Yes, it is a first of its kind. We noticed that not many women actively attended the community meets. We wanted to increase the participation of women at events like these and we realized that one way to do it was to spread awareness among women who were interested in joining this field.”
Shruthi further adds, “Currently, a balanced perspective in information security is missing. We feel that such events will help bring about gender equality in the field of cyber security and we want to do our bit in spreading awareness.”
Their first event was at COCON (stylised as c0c0n) 2014 at Kochi, Kerala. More than 120 women attended the workshop, which included students, teachers and working professionals. “The response we received was very positive. Many participants asked us how they could have a career in this field. They also wanted us to conduct similar events in the future and spread the word to many,” shares Shruthi.
The girls have also started a website named infosecgirls, a platform for women passionate about InfoSec.
Through this platform, they aim to reach out to women and get them curious about Information Security.
Those who want to help the initiative can help by spreading the word on social media channels, by partnering to conduct events related to InfoSec for women in technology and by show willingness to share their expertise.
In comparison to the US and the Western countries the number of women ethical hackers is quite less but, according to Shruthi, there has been a wave of change lately and she is hopeful that there will be
many more women in the days to come.The challenge, according to Shruthi, is the lack of awareness and participation. “I think hesitation to participate in events where there are less women attendees and also hesitation to ask for help as they feel they may be mocked at keeps women away from InfoSec domain and events and conferences related to it.”
I think spreading of awareness has already started in the form of various initiatives. I feel that women will be inspired and encouraged to join the InfoSec community.
Passion and dedication towards achieving her goals in life keeps Shruthi motivated. Her family, friends and mentors have been her greatest source of strength.
Drawing from Diane Mariechild’s words, “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform,” Shruthi believes that women truly have the power to nurture and transform things. Her advice to aspiring young women in college interested in the InfoSec domain is, “If this is your area of interest then it’s the right time to get started. The InfoSec industry needs to diversify and evolve faster and women joining InfoSec will make that possible.”