Cybersecurity needs women

Safeguarding our lives online requires skills and experiences that lie beyond masculine stereotypes of the hacker and soldier, says Winifred R. Poster.

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As computer hacking becomes more widespread and damaging, it exacerbates inequalities. In 2016, 2 billion people had their personal details stolen, including the medical records of more than 100 million Americans. People of African American and Latino descent are, on average, two to three times more likely than white people to be victims of fraud related to debt or income. And women are more likely than men to be targets of ‘remote sexual abuse’ — coerced into posing nude online or being stalked through the Internet. However, cybersecurity professionals — who protect databases, software systems and computer networks from access, change or destruction — are predominantly male. Women comprise only 11% of these professionals worldwide, and only 14% in North America. Cybersecurity’s future depends on its ability to attract, retain and promote women, who represent a highly skilled and under-tapped resource. The discipline also needs to learn about women’s experiences as victims of cybercrime and the steps needed to address the imbalance of harm.

By Winifred R. Poster


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