back to article Where are the women in cyber security? On the dark side, study suggests

If you can't join them, then you may as well try to beat them – at least if you're a talented security engineer looking for a job and you happen to be a woman.  As we've noted before, the infosec world moves at a glacial pace toward gender equity. It appears that's not the case in the cyber criminal underground, according to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So these figures mean...

    ... that female infosec people are less ethical than males? Better stop hiring women, then ....

    (yes its a joke, of course it is, we'll hire males females and anything in between as long as they have the skills)

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: So these figures mean...

      Sadly - and stupidly - there are too many men who will be throwing it around for real in recruitment meetings.

      Back in the 1970's it was thought funny to wear a tie bearing a pig logo and the initials MCP (To mansplain, that stands for Male Chauvinist Pig). Today's pig is too chicken to be so bullish. Some kind of progress, I suppose.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So these figures mean...

        We need a Katrina Mitnik story to inspire women.

        1. K

          Re: So these figures mean...

          ELI5 - Who on earth is that? I did try to find references.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: So these figures mean...

        I've never met one of these in my entire working life. Funny that -- the media that I read comes up with these stories (rife in the current in carnation of the Guardian) but my everyday experience is nothing like that. Not that such people don't exist but I suspect they're not quite as common as popular imagery suggests. (Same with the whole old people / technology trope.)

        FWIW -- One of the nastiest would-be managers I ever had was a woman. I said 'would be' because I didn't want to work for her so she exacted quite terrible revenge on me, basically career blocking both inside and beyond the company. They're not all saints and madonnas, you know -- one of the oldest tricks is to plonk themselves down in a management position and then promptly go off on maternity leave for a few years (in one case leaving the displaced underling to continue the job.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So these figures mean...

          I once had a female manage who was a complete c—t. But, I’ve also had my fair share of male managers who were c—ts too. I’d say the only difference is that one smiles while stabbing you in the front and the other doesn’t.

        2. steelpillow Silver badge
          Facepalm

          I've never met one of these in my entire working life.

          I think the issue if one feels one has never met an MCP is, how do you explain the distinct shortage of women in your White Hat org, compared to the Black Hat ones?

    2. Dr. Ellen

      Re: So these figures mean...

      These days legitimate enterprises ate terrified of being caught doing something non-Woke, and most of the Woke/discrimination lawsuits I've noticed have involved women as plaintiffs. Illegitimate enterprises don't care.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: So these figures mean...

        Anyone using "woke" in a sentence that does not involve coffee and breakfast deserves a down vote no matter what.

        1. Snowy Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: So these figures mean...

          Not down "woke"

        2. Dr. Ellen

          Re: So these figures mean...

          FDR is reported to have said, "Judge me by the enemies I have made." Sometimes a downvote is better than an upvote, though I usually like both.

        3. xtina
          Thumb Up

          Re: So these figures mean...

          wholeheartedly true!

      2. georgezilla Silver badge

        Re: So these figures mean...

        "woke" is one of the terms that are used by people who have no actual argument, fact based or fictional, or defense at all on a subject. They just yell "WOKE" and run away.

        " ... most of the Woke/discrimination lawsuits I've noticed have involved women ... "

        No shit. And just why do you think that might be?

        Never mind. You made the comment, so you don't have a damn clue. And that's why you brought used the term "woke".

        < shakes head >

        1. Dr. Ellen

          Re: So these figures mean...

          The world is filled with arguments, but supplying data and references in a comments column is hardly the place for them. "Woke" summarizes a whole lot in one word, but most of us know what it is, Our opinions of the phenomenon may be different. Similarly, "dog whistle", while vague, summarizes a lot of arguments. I use "cooties" to indicate ritual contamination. If nothing else, it grabs people's attention, giving me a chance to explain.

          Most every group has their own dictionary these days, and complains when others don't use it. I, too, have my dictionary. If you don't like it, tough. I've been accused of ableism, for instance. Damn right! To me, it translates to "I need such-and-so done. Can you do the job?" It's pragmatism - why hire somebody who can't do the job? It's also something for the job applicant to consider. If you're on a functioning region of the autism scale, go for detail-oriented work or quality control. Don't ask for the front-desk job. If you love working with people, that front-desk job would be fine, or maybe sales.

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: So these figures mean...

      I can guarantee cyber security protection, see the icon - I'm getting my wire-cutters out of my jacket.

  2. chuckufarley Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Two wrongs will never make a right...

    ...but they might might you enemies you never expected.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dark Side Demographics

    In my experience, Cybersecurity recruitment seemed to be biased towards Young and Male, so I guess theses findings aren't surprising.

    I wonder if a similar analysis of the age ranges of the miscreants would show Older Males also disproportionally represented?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dark Side Demographics

      Our recruitment is blind, so we only know even the name of a candidate when sending out an email to them, up until that point I have zero idea who they are, where they live, whether they are even in the country. All I see is what they have written in for their experience, skills and knowledge.

      I have over the past 5 years never had a single female candidate for any of the jobs yet our recruitment, I don't know why when over 70% of our workforce is female too - so it's not like we're known for avoiding them?!

      I've even looked at whether it's the job description that's putting them off but we offer hybrid working, flexi time, excellent holiday allowance, brilliant maternity cover and even some help with childcare for those who want it (like I did!)

      Zero idea what's causing it but it's not that the jobs are aimed at young and male - I'm simply not getting the option to hire female candidates.

      In terms of older males being disproportionally represented - that would appear to be a historic hang over but if we're still unable to get females into the field that will remain the case.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        Re: Dark Side Demographics

        It sounds like you're doing everything great! Unfortunately, discrimination has a whole lot of inertia. If an industry has a rep for mysoginy, then women are less likely to want to join it, which means that they'll be under-represented, which means the industry's rep persists, closing the circle. Every company like yours doing things right, and every woman that decides to join the industry nonetheless, helps picking away at the circle, but it'll take a while before it's broken.

        1. Ideasource Bronze badge

          Re: Dark Side Demographics

          I'm never really cared who does a job or it's social optics.

          As long as essential jobs get done, it doesn't matter who did them.

          No matter what new thing people find to outlet natural frustration with a mixed up world, the job still got done.

          I see no reason to hold back useful things for a never-ending rotation of natural human angst.

          As long as an individual remains entrenched in social centrics they will never see an end to invitations for outrage. They will never be satisfied and at peace until their perspective and strategies of emotional generation alter towards greater personal autonomy and self-reliance.

          For what is society but a huge mess of endless compromise that is never enough in any direction the ultimately serves its own institutional survival through unwilling sacrifice of individual humans lives it devours to maintain itself.

      2. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Dark Side Demographics

        When I was at university studying Computer Science, there were three women in the class of about 100.

        In fact, if you were to get a female applicant from that class after a decade, there is a 50-50 chance that she's trans.

        That 6% is the pool of female candidates you have to work from. I think that my class was on the edge of the curve, but you get the picture.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Dark Side Demographics

          Similar in physics with an extra problem. There is a big drive to get better gender equality in academia so more encouragement to get women into academic jobs, so fewer went into industry.

          It leads to some ironic statistics, pay differentials for men/women in physics increases with higher qualifications.

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Dark Side Demographics

          Indeed, when I studied electronics years ago it was one lady out of 40. Two decades later it had improved a lot, 3 out of 20. Sadly in the last 5 or so years the course closed completely.

      3. georgezilla Silver badge

        Re: Dark Side Demographics

        Because it starts at the bottom.

        Are women being recruited / encouraged in school? Or are they being discouraged there? Boys Club?

        And if they aren't are they running into the "boys club" mentality when they try after they get the training?

        I turned down a promotion. Because the woman that also applied was a better choice for it then I was. I knew she was. I worked with her and trained her. She took it when they offered it to her. And proved me right ( I replaced her when they gave her her next promotion ).

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Dark Side Demographics

      Look at the Russian educational environment - men run around having fun and partying, the women normally sit down quietly looking at what's happening and figuring out how to avoid the men's problems. It might explain their politics issues too. I worked with a Russian female coder in the UK about 30 years ago and she always did an excellent job, writing commercial code that immediately worked much better than our programmers efforts back then.

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Re: Dark Side Demographics

        I was thinking similarly that a difference in approach based on gender may be in play, re:

        "When compared to Stack Overflow, a developer and programming forum, only 12 percent of visitors [posters] were female," Trend Micro said of its use of Semrush.

        Perhaps females are generally more inclined to research previous answers' solutions before posting, rather than males spamming the same questions blindly.

        1. Alumoi Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Dark Side Demographics

          Welcome to the internet where men are men, women are men, and children are FBI agents in disguise.

          It never gets old!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dark Side Demographics

            Upvote. That's awesome. I'll have to file that away for future use.

  4. Filippo Silver badge

    I wonder how much of this is due to anonymity.

  5. Simon Harris

    Where are the women in cyber security?

    Maybe they decided to keep their jobs in ballet after all.

    https://amp.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/12/ballet-dancer-could-reskill-with-job-in-cyber-security-suggests-uk-government-ad

  6. Plest Silver badge

    You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

    The reason is simple math, the pool of male members of technical professions simply outnumbers the female numbers. So the pools from which you can draw male members is bigger, thus you get a much diverse choice of skills and abilities, the pool of female techies is way smaller and there for the cream of female techies is simply way smaller. Thus if you demand 50/50 true equality of the genders you are doomed to have a much higehr ratio of highly skilled males, some highly skilled females and a lot of mediocre onces. It's not sexist, it's numbers which are pure fact.

    Solution? We simply need more girls to see tech careers are viable from the nursery school age, get them started early and we'll have a bigger pool of female techies to draw from and equality might be possible.

    1. ahfakopsdfi

      Re: You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

      But that’s exactly the issue: trying to make girls see tech careers as viable. There have been continuous initiatives over the last 40 years, all to no avail.

      Interestingly, in the 1970s a very “women’s lib” aunt tried to put me off going into computer programming because “in 10 years’ time all programming will be done by women” (and actually, so what if it had been?). I did go into programming in the early 80s, probably about 1 in 6 were female. By the time I left the industry 8 years ago the ratio was even fewer.

      1. Ideasource Bronze badge

        Re: You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

        But if we (any collective social push) are to influence AKA socially manipulate, women towards anything, we become guilty of the the very same tactics were objectionable and oppressive in the first place.

        Isn't that the core principle at play here,

        the desire and right for each individual to find out what they could become is sabotaged by purposeful attempts to influence by artificial programs of conditioning too massive to avoid being tainted by. And therein lies the Injustice as a theft of potential for divergent New direction of self-authorship

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

          One of the things my wife rails about is pushing women to be in business, be managers, leaders, etc. (Read that again, very carefully.) Giving them the option to do so, and the support needed, is the right thing to do, but give them the choice. My wife has always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. If that's really what she wants, why should she be looked down upon for not being a businesswoman, female scientist, etc?

    2. Helcat

      Re: You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

      Problem here is with the family environment.

      I know of families who encourage their daughters to study medical qualifications, and sons to study tech. I worked with one of the latter and his ambition exceeded his skillset. To the point of getting funding for training in subjects that he was utterly hopeless at, so he came to me to help him. Not just to teach him (I'm always willing to help there) but then to sit his course exam for him (something I simply will not do). Why was he in IT? Because his parents had encouraged him to study and work in IT as it would 'pay well' (so he came to work in the NHS which doesn't... go figure). His sister, however, had been encouraged to go train as a nurse so she could look after their parents as they got older. Only, while she did enjoy medicine, she became a veterinarian instead. She happened to love animals, and her parents simply accepted she was studying medicine and didn't think about what kind of medicine. They were not happy with the outcome. Apparently she was doing very well as a Vet, and making far more money than her brother - something he griped about quite a bit.

      This same situation repeats time and again with different families, and some of that is due to culture, and it does include the dread 'you will get married and have kids' mentality of some parents. That all serves to drain the pool of potential female techies, and replaces them with mediocre male ones.

      It is changing, however: Successive generations are seeing IT as a female friendly place at last, so they're encouraging their daughters to study IT. It'll just take time for them to filter into the workplace and establish themselves as decent techies.

      1. Ideasource Bronze badge

        Re: You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

        Oh that's just the weak minded.

        I don't mean that derogatorily.

        Just some people creatively diverge in the response to pressure other people reciprocate what's around them much like a broken record making an incidental skip remix track that sort of works.

        It takes both to make the world go round.

      2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: You cannot get true gender equality. Why? Numbers!

        "she became a veterinarian instead. She happened to love animals, and her parents simply accepted she was studying medicine and didn't think about what kind of medicine. They were not happy with the outcome."

        What's wrong with spending retirement in a crate?

  7. imanidiot Silver badge

    Unqualified, uncertified?

    Perhaps it's also the case that a lot of the women doing black hat cybersecurity/cybercrime are not officially qualified to work in the industry. Never got the bit of paper so have little chance to get hired (especially if they're from/in Russia). There's a lot of resources on the web to get self-taught and a smart person of any gender might well be able to get themselves to the level where they could be useful. If the "proper" industry doesn't want them because of a lack of paperwork, they'll turn to the dark side.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    % of convicted hackers who are female (~0%), or are women just better at not getting caught?

    To be fair, Trend Micro's methodology is a bit iffy – and the report itself admits as much. Users on these forums are are largely anonymous, necessitating use of tools like Semrush and uClassify's Gender Analyzer V5 to make what amounts to guesses – at best. ... no, not "necessitating".

    Ah! - should we count Caroline Ellison?

  9. Snowy Silver badge
    Holmes

    To be fair, Trend Micro's methodology is a bit iffy – and the report itself admits as much.

    Iffy I think they meant a complete load trash.

    They are posting anonymously on cyber crime forum and the report does not even think that they may have used software to change the style of the writing so it can not be matched with their own?

  10. that one in the corner Silver badge

    At least the women hackers

    will be wearing stylish - and clean - hoodies. Look at the photo[1] El Reg is using: there is even natural daylight and a pot plant in that office.

    [1] given the methodology, the most reliable part of the story?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gender or sex?

    If you refer to gender you have no idea if you are including females or males that call themselves women. If you mean gender then you have no idea how many women you are counting since this field is a target rich environment for men who call themselves women. Let's deal with sex, eh, so we all know where we are.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Gender or sex?

      Considering that trans women are women and trans men are men, let's deal with gender.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Job types for human behavior

    Everyone is unique, however there are generalities that fit genders. Female tend to Nurture others, Males tend to be hands on (build or break). Yes there are every type under the sun - these are natural behaviors based on instinct. Meaning it is more likely that a woman would be involved in health care than working on machines. There is nothing wrong with being who you are, or stepping outside of your comfort zone to do other things. But by human nature we are drawn to types of activates. It certainly does not mean one thing is better than another. But I will say - If I had a broken leg and a broken computer - I want the medic not the mechanic, whatever gender they happen to be.

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