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Karla Alvarado

Women in cybersecurity

- It is almost impossible to think that cybernetic threats can be generated by women and that they can also specialize to combat them.

Women in cybersecurity

What do you think of when you hear the word hacker (hacker)? Does a hooded man in front of a computer come to mind? Why is it hard to imagine a female hacker? Culturally, technology and the professions in the field of engineering and computer science have become masculinized. Specifically, the field of cybersecurity has notoriously been reserved for men, since in the first instance security has been conceived as a responsibility of the "stronger sex" to protect the "weaker sex" that are women and other vulnerable groups, and these patriarchal practices have moved into cyberspace.

Thus, it is almost impossible to think that cybernetic threats can be generated by women and that they can also specialize to combat them. However, the maximization of digitization in the context of the pandemic caused by COVID-19, the "new normal" forces us to change this thinking. First of all, it is necessary to define what cybersecurity is. This is understood as the protection of digital infrastructures and networks that are constantly growing. All the networks that connect these objects create cyberspace. Consequently, computer attacks use this space to achieve their objectives, and although cyberspace is a space without specific borders, networks are based on physical technical infrastructures that are located in a specific territory: there is, therefore, a dimension of territoriality . [1]

In particular, the issue of women in cybersecurity can be understood from various angles. On the one hand, there is its insertion in this workplace, and on the other, the analysis of its conception as an easy target for cybercriminals. In the second case, the uneven development of infrastructure, misinformation, and the intangible scope of what happens in cyberspace make the protection of users more complex, as they are so unaware of the environment in which they operate every day, particularly from their cell phone, as well as the intangible risks to which they are exposed.

Although efforts to regulate cyberspace have accelerated, systemic gender inequality conditions persist in public policy processes on the matter. The Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) has verified that digital technologies are not neutral, but, on the contrary, the gender of people influences and conditions access, the use that is given to the Internet and the risks that They live in cyberspace. Consequently, there are marked differences between the type of cybercrime, abuse and violence committed online against women compared to those that affect men, whose manifestations take specific forms and generate diverse impacts depending on their gender. [2]

This shows that women are still underrepresented in cybersecurity. As a way to counteract this lack of representation, more women need to be involved in the issue to objectively address* problems such as online violence, which is one of the clearest manifestations of gender inequality in cyberspace. . This problem also increases the digital divide that women and girls face, which leads them, meanwhile, to self-censor or decide to keep a low profile on the Internet for fear that their privacy or security will be violated.

Based on the above, it is necessary to present cybersecurity as one of those new industries that must evolve in the identification and eradication of violent tendencies from a gender perspective. The fact that this vision is not widely developed also has to do with a cultural issue that has its origin in "the social construction of inequalities, in the unequal distribution of roles, in the difficult emancipation of women or in a certain rejection to equality among all individuals, regardless of their sex, their skin color or their origin.” [4] Although women are increasingly using technology and digital media, the gender gap prevents us from thinking that their use has been equal, and urges us to avoid at all costs the duplication of violent structures of the physical world in cybernetic spaces.*

Likewise, it is necessary to promote efforts for a better understanding of the dynamics that shape the policy and practice in this sector from an intersectional point of view, since talking about women in a generalized way blurs the inequalities between them. In this sense, it is necessary to ask questions such as: Which women have access to technology? How many of them have a mobile device and what type? Which women use the Internet more frequently and for what purposes? What are the dangers that women run by being part of the cybernetic ecosystem? And what is the role of women in the formulation of public policies on cybersecurity? We can assert that it is not the same to talk about women in cybersecurity in Europe as it is in Latin America, but we have to understand the underlying reasons for such differences.

Despite the implicit need for intersectional female participation, it is still difficult for women to enter such a masculinized profession. As one of the improvement efforts, internationalist professionals must get involved in the multidisciplinary understanding and development of this field, with a particular emphasis on the Latin American region where existing inequalities hinder efforts to address the new phenomena brought about by the digital age. , discriminatory by nature.

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Alvarado, Karla. “Las mujeres en la ciberseguridad.” CEMERI, 29 jun. 2023,