Monday 30 October 2017

On Writing

By Kristine Sihto

“Once upon a time, there was a girl. That girl dreamed of being a writer…”

I have always liked words. As a child, I had a stammer. Not enough for my parents to ever worry, but enough for me to hear my own voice and feel constantly ashamed. It was different when I wrote. On paper, there was no hesitation. No repeated consonants at the beginning of a word, no grasping for words that would never come to my lips – I could be eloquent and graceful and smart on the page.

When I was introduced to poetry in high school, I flourished. Adding deliberate structure into those words was like a dance. I could craft my words to mimic the ebbs and flows of water or the crackling flames of fire, use sibilance to sigh the wind’s whispers or rhythm to push the beat of a heart. I knew that I wanted to write. There was never an inkling that I would become a technical writer, however. Facts, I thought, were dull and dry; I wanted to be Tolkien or Blyton. I wanted to be Blake or Wright or Cummings. I wanted to fill the world with rhythm and language that would turn the head and speak to the heart.

It turns out that writing is hard without motivation. It takes effort and commitment to get up and write thousands of words a day with no solid incentive.
The drive that I maintained as a teen to write every day was slowly eroded by rejection letters and competing priorities, like dishwashing and children and television. The works-in-progress piled up as new ideas were born before the old ones had reached completion, and suddenly I was in my 40s and still dreaming that someday I would be a writer.
My break back into writing was a series of lucky events. A chance conversation put me into a professional editing role, and a few years later, another chance conversation found me in a technical writer’s position, in an industry I’d never considered before. That industry is Information Security.
Older eyes see that while there is a hazy, elusive value in the work that I dreamed of in my younger days, being able to explain facts on paper has solid worth. We communicate in written words: in policy, in reports, in emails, over the Internet. Clarity is essential.
I used to say that I could write anything I could understand. My role as a technical writer has forced me to revisit that idea. I research as I write, and often, as I am writing about something, I am learning it for the first time. It is poetry again, fitting concepts that are new to me into the structure of sentences, identifying the nouns and verbs and adjectives and making them flow in meaningful ways. I now see that I can understand anything that I can write. I no longer need to feel I can speak to the heart, so long as the head hears me.

About the author - Kristine Sihto has been writing intermittently over the past three decades. Most recently, she has found joy in technical writing for Alcorn Security Group. Kristine has plans to self-publish a book of poetry in 2018

(c) AWSN 2017

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organisation or association.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Bridging the gap between uni and industry - AWSN Cadets

By Jacqui Loustau, Founder and one of the Directors of the Australian Women in Security Network

I remember when I was at school, I always questioned why I was learning certain subjects (typical teenager I guess..!). Why we had to study maths, why I had to learn french. I didn't understand the importance as I couldn't apply it to real life situations. When I started uni, studying the Bachelor of Information Systems, I was lucky enough to also work part time at Australia Post in their helpdesk. It was then that I started to understand the point of all this learning.

Having a curiosity for technology is one thing, but to understand why you need to know something can enhance your learning considerably. Being able to apply and understand how things operate and work can be a great advantage before entering the workforce. 

Being in a male dominated field can sometimes make it intimating for some females to fit in and can make some of us shy away from asking questions in the fear that we will be judged. 

The importance of role models and finding great mentors is vital. To see someone working in an area and to understand what their everyday job entails can help shape where you want to go in the future. 

The AWSN Cadets brings together female students from different universities interested pursuing a career in the information security space.
It provides a safe environment to:
- meet others with similar interests and challenges
-  facilitate networking opportunities to help apply study into real life and relevant industry contexts
- practice hands-on technical skills
- helps broaden perspective and provides real insights into what it’s like to work in cyber security

- connect with industry
- build confidence

We are about to complete our first AWSN Cadets pilot programme - 5 technical workshops on the basics of malware reverse engineering. Our first mentor Noushin Shabab has been teaching us the difference between static and dynamic analysis, the tools analysts would use in order to understand and dissect what malware does. These have been very interesting sessions, and have helped these students understand why file types, address of entry points and size of code matter! 

To get this rare insight to what a malware reverse engineer does in her every day job is fascinating. I wish I had known this years ago, my life may have taken a different path! 
We are thankful for Noushin and our future mentors for the time they are giving in order to pass their knowledge onto to us.

The last session will have various companies come and present on what they do as a malware reverse engineer at their company. This helps provide different perspectives on what this type of job entails.

The group of maximum of 10, meets every fortnight and each topic runs for approx. 5 weeks after hours.Future topics currently lined up are penetration testing, blue teaming and digital forensics.The initiative is run and supported by Kaspersky labs, ANZ, Telstra and PWC.

We will be opening future places over the next few months. Places are strictly limited and selective due to the nature of what is being taught. If you are interested in participating, finding out more information or becoming a mentor, then please contact our AWSN cadet leaders Elizabeth Bonny and Diane Loi at:

Testimony from an AWSN Cadet:

The AWSN Cadets technical workshops with Noushin Shabab have been a rare and valuable opportunity for me to expand my info sec horizons! I have experienced a completely different side of the information security industry - malware reverse engineering - that I may not have otherwise had exposure to as a university student. The small class size of 10 students also means that you really get to know both your peers and the industry mentor well. I feel like I've formed some great friendships as a consequence.  
Thoroughly recommend AWSN Cadets and their workshops for their content, networking opportunities, and support - you'd be hard pressed to find opportunities like this anywhere else for tertiary female students interested in all things information security!" 

(c) AWSN 2017

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organisation or association.

Monday 9 October 2017

Stay Smart Online Week 9 - 13 October 2017 #SSOW17

The Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN) encourages everyone to be diligent with their safety and security online. Stay Smart Online, an initiative of the Australian Government, provides information on how to be safer online and has an alerts service as well as a national awareness week to promote more secure online practices. The 9 to 13 October 2017 is Stay Smart Online Week #SSOW17 and AWSN is pleased to share the tips to stay smart online,

Your personal and financial information — like your address,
birthday or telephone number — can be used by cyber
criminals, so limit the personal information you share online.
¨    Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts and apps to control the amount and type of information you want to share.
¨    Use a separate email address for shopping, discussion groups and newsletters.

¨    Only share your primary email address with people you know.

For more information check out Protect yourself at

 This post has been created by Amanda-Jane Turner on behalf of AWSN. 

(c) AWSN 2017

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organisation or association.

Monday 2 October 2017

AWSN Announcement: AWSN Brisbane chapter

AWSN is organically evolving to continue to connect, support, collaborate and inspire and we appreciate all support past, present and future. Today we announce a change in the Brisbane Chapter Lead, and give thanks to those who have been instrumental in getting AWSN started in Brisbane.

Thanks to Sheena Downey PMP and Sarah Hufnagel for organising the last brissy meet up and giving the AWSN Brisbane chapter a great start! Also thanks to Jodie Siganto  for the first AWSN Brisbane meeting last year.

We are pleased to announce that Amanda-Jane Turner (Mandy) will now be leading the Brisbane chapter with support from both Sheena and Sarah.

If you are in Brisbane and are keen to join, Mandy has lots of great ideas and an amazing passion for our cause. Please reach out to her if you want to be involved. 

(c) AWSN 2017

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organisation or association.