Interview With Elena Elkina – Women in Security and Privacy

Posted on Jan 3, 2022 by Aviva Zacks

Private Internet Access recently sat down with Elena Elkina, Co-Founder of Women in Security and Privacy (WISP) and asked her how her organization empowers women to succeed in the cybersecurity industry.

Private Internet Access: What motivated you to cofound this organization?

Elena Elkina: When we started WISP, we felt that privacy and security were emerging. And we felt that there was a huge need to have a place where people can share their knowledge, learn different things, and have a collaborative network. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that was specifically directed to both privacy and security. There are a lot of security organizations and networking groups, there are a few privacy groups, but there was nothing for privacy and security, and we felt it was essential. None of it was directly related to women and minorities, and we felt that on top of privacy and security, as a subject matter expert, we really needed the place where women and minorities can connect and help each other. And that’s how WISP was born.

PIA: How does WISP help empower women to succeed in the cybersecurity industry?

EE: One of our programs is focused on practical workshops. We provide educational opportunities where we share knowledge and expertise in the industry with other women and minorities. We also have Tandems, which is a mentoring program where we match peers to each other. Our program is unique because we don’t have mentor-mentee. Everyone has a role.

We have job boards where we reach out to organizations that either are already passionate about diversity and inclusion or need education in this area. We are a bridge between companies and people who are looking for a job.

We also have various scholarships. We work with different organizations across the globe that provide security and privacy training—like SANS, RSA, DEF CON, Black Hat, among many other organizations. They provide scholarships and discounted opportunities for women and minorities to attend training conferences.

PIA: Why do you think individuals and organizations need a good VPN?

EE: The purpose of a VPN is to provide security and privacy as you communicate over the internet.

It can help anonymize your internet traffic. Even though VPN does not make you truly anonymous, it does protect the traffic you are transmitting while providing a private tunnel that is particularly important when you use public Wi-Fi or need to login into your office settings remotely. Also, if you need to test your online content from another country, using VPN will let you experiment and see online content from another part of the world.

PIA: What do you think the worst cyberthreats are today?

EE: People remain the weakest link. Hackers are getting more sophisticated with phishing and social engineering. This threat is being expanded right now because there are many organizations that are not ready for work from home, which provides more opportunities for hackers.

PIA: How do you think the pandemic is going to change cybersecurity in general for the future?

EE: I see the glass as half full. I think it was a challenging push for a lot of organizations to develop infrastructure that supports working from home. This really did push the companies, but in the long term, it prepared them for the better because it created a more connected even though more vulnerable business world. Pandemic has tested every’ s company cybersecurity controls and it will continue to do so. Leaders are embracing new approached and technologies and who ones who do it well will prosper. I see it as a new opportunity to re-invent the way the information security work is done. It will provide more opportunities for companies to protect data and create an environment that will help companies to be more productive and more creative but also stronger to protect data.