In Conversation: The Women in Network Security
Why does network security matter?
On average, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. If any of these attacks result in a data breach, they could cost over $150 million, with research suggesting that cyber-attacks could cost businesses over $2 trillion altogether in 2019.
However, at Akamai, we work to keep the Internet secure every day. As modern technology advances and innovations increase, the black market expands and threatens our cyber-security. So, our network security department needs to be consistently up to date on the newest technology trends and techniques to provide the web with a powerful and strategic defence system.
How do we keep the Internet safe?
Akamai's Software Engineer Senior Lead, Ada Sharoni, describes network security as "a constant cat and mouse game". Every time a hacker comes up with a new method, our network security team are coming up with a counter-attack, and so the game continues. She says, "it's always evolving; you can't stay static."
As it happens, our cyber-security team love the chase. Ramya Naidu, Akamai's Engineering Manager, says, "every day we have to be better than what hackers can be."
With so many small attacks taking place, creating abnormalities within the user experience, it is crucial to be in a position to see the bigger picture.
At Akamai, we are the backbone of the Internet. We oversee everything from the smaller, everyday processes, to the broader, more extensive streaming experience. Because our vision is comprehensive, we can home in on the more minor details that may otherwise get missed. As such, our employees always have their eye on potential threats and are planning their counter-attacks.
What does it take to be part of our network security team?
With the need to continually improve and remain on top of the fight, network security can be a fast-paced, exhilarating and rewarding career.
Like many of the roles within Akamai, there is no set pathway to a career in our security team. Both Ada and Ramya loved technology and pursued it from a young age. However, they both moved into network security after taking their time to understand more precisely what they wanted to do.
Ada said, "I learnt to code in high school, but I didn't really relate to programming.
I didn't know any girls who were into computer science or programming, but I knew guys who were. If your friends aren't into computers, it can seem unnatural to pursue that pathway. So, I did Science and Physics at University, and moved gradually into programming."
Who makes up the team?
Our teams are made up of people from many different backgrounds. Ramya, for example, is originally from India. However, she relocated to the US to complete her masters and worked for Akamai before moving back to India within the Akamai team.
She has worked for Akamai for 9 years and cites the freedom she was given when she started to explore, learn and develop as integral to her progress. It was this freedom that led to her discovering her love for debugging and troubleshooting, which prompted her to move into network security.
Similarly, Ada moved from our Cambridge office to Israel, while moving from a Software Development role into our Security team.
Of her experience, she said, "Akamai didn't just look at my qualifications, they saw who I am, and they believed in me." Having been supported within that transition and allowed to learn on the go, she now gets to support others in their growth.
Both Ada and Ramya manage a team of people, which Ramya said gives her the benefit of being "technically involved in all their projects. This puts my experience to use and allows me to continue to have an impact on Akamai's products."
She said, "with some support and conviction," anyone can have the tech career that they dream of.
Our people are our greatest asset
At Akamai, we're working daily towards a more secure future. We protect data and equip businesses with the tools they need, such as firewalls, hardened routers and intrusion detection systems to keep attacks at bay. Not only do we deal with current threats, but we also think ahead, to potential vulnerabilities and disaster recovery plans.
We believe that to have the bigger picture and provide the most reliable protection plans, our team is where our strength lies. As such, we are supporting talent from the ground up with the belief that everyone can succeed.
How do we do this?
At Akamai, we support career journeys. So, we don't think in linear terms. We put the person first, and we support the career they envision. Just like Ada and Ramya, many of our team members end up in roles quite different than those they'd originally imagined. As such, we keep our vision and our minds broad when thinking ahead, both in terms of our people and our security services.
Cyber threats are increasing year on year, with a 350% increase in ransomware attacks in 2018 alone. However, with a diverse, expanding team and an all-encompassing view of the Internet, we are equipped to tackle all threats with the vigour and speed required.