Welcome to Speed Data: Quick Conversations With Cybersecurity Leaders. Like speed dating, our goal is to capture the hearts of CISOs with intriguing, unique insight in a rapid format for security professionals pressed for time.
This week, host Megan Garza sat down with Varonis colleague Siwar El Assad to chat about the impact of cybersecurity on modern society, the painstaking reality of breaches, and how a chance encounter led Siwar into the field of cybersecurity.
Helping through hacking
Although Siwar El Assad would never refer to herself as a prodigy, she certainly has the qualifications for the title. The Senior Security Specialist on the Varonis R&D team was just 15 years old when she conducted advanced academic research in the field of interferometry at the Tel Aviv University of Biomedical Engineering. In addition, Siwar completed a course in Electrical Engineering at MIT on full scholarship — all while still in high school.
She doesn’t rest on her impressive laurels, though. Siwar credits her dedication inside and outside of the office to her inquisitive tendencies. “I always say I’m a perpetual student, driven by my knowledge-hungry nature,” she said.
“I get to develop tools that automate investigation processes, I get to run forensics investigations, I get to attack and engage in ethical hacking…” she said, all of which help keep customers’ data safe. “I feel like I’m on the side of helping in this world.”
Despite Siwar’s extensive background and experience speaking at tech conferences around the globe, she admits there is still much to be learned about cybersecurity.
Security is by no means a stagnant condition, but rather an unceasing progression. Pursuing the updated information in the field further aids in minimizing the potential risks and thereby calamities that could damage the very foundations of modern society.
A chance encounter with cybersecurity
When Siwar isn’t hard at work trying to make the world — and its data — a safer place, she mentors youth through hands-on workshops, such as “Think Like a Hacker and Cyber Researcher" and “Protect Ourselves in the Network.”
The reigning Varonis Hackathon champ, Siwar almost wound up in a completely different profession.
“I was very into politics,” she said. “I was involved in model United Nations locally and internationally.” A chance encounter with a challenging opportunity is what charted her career in a different direction.
“Cybersecurity actually found me,” she said. “Fresh out of high school, I encountered online challenges published by a cyber company that were deemed nearly unsolvable. They highlighted an enticing promise — whoever corrects those challenges and solves them gets a full-time position within the cyber group of that company.” Of course, Siwar knocked it out of the park.
“I tackled these challenges and secured my role in cyber. It was very quick until I found myself fascinated by the world of cyber and its profound influence on our lives.”
Now, Siwar gets to use her talents to help stop cyberattackers in their tracks. “It is irrefutable that breaches can happen, in spite of our defenses, however, when data is protected, the impact of an attack is diminished,” she said. “It’s all about data.”
What you should do now
Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to reducing data risk at your company:
- Schedule a demo session with us, where we can show you around, answer your questions, and help you see if Varonis is right for you.
- Download our free report and learn the risks associated with SaaS data exposure.
- Share this blog post with someone you know who'd enjoy reading it. Share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Reddit, or Facebook.
Megan is the content editor for Varonis and an avid fan of all things AP style. When Megan's not debating whether "cybersecurity" should be one word or two, she loves to travel with her husband and dote unhealthily on their pitbull, Bear.