The Recipient of the 2022 Monika Oit Fellowship: The Best People in Cyber Security are those who can Collaborate Across Disciplinary Boundaries

“The best people in cyber security are those who can collaborate across disciplinary boundaries, share their own know-how, and comprehend the context in which others are operating. ”

Kärt Padur

Student at University College London (UCL)

Cybernetica regularly funds two scholarships, one of which is the Monika Oit Fellowship in memory of Monika, whose contributions to computer science in Estonia and to Cybernetica cannot be underestimated.

This year, the recipient of the Fellowship is Kärt Padur, who studies cybersecurity at the University College London (UCL). In this interview she talks about why and how to pursue studies and a career in cybersecurity, how it's not strictly a technical field and how it's definitely not just a man's world. To find out more about applying for the scholarship, see here.

What kind of people are a good fit for the cyber security field?

Given the broad nature of cybersecurity challenges I think we need the expertise of people from across various backgrounds to form an interdisciplinary approach. People who have technical skills and a logical mind for coding are essential, but equally necessary are people with social sciences, legal, or political backgrounds to solve the legislative and human-facing cybersecurity issues on the horizon. The best people in cyber security are those who can collaborate across disciplinary boundaries, share their own know-how, and comprehend the context in which others are operating. As cyber defence is a cat and mouse game, the best trait someone can have is to be proactive, so we stay on top of emerging threats.

What made you pursue a career in cyber security?

I’ve always been interested in Information Technology, having been inspired by how my home country, Estonia, embraces everyday use of innovative IT solutions. The country is globally known as a pioneer in electronic identities, electronic voting, adoption of mobile technologies, online banking systems, and many more innovations which improve our quality of life. However, I came to the unfortunate realisation that as these innovations become more critical to society, a greater focus on the cyber security aspects becomes vital to keep them functioning. Therefore, my overall motivation is to apply my knowledge and skills in Estonia to protect our future digital infrastructure.

What made you decide to study cybersecurity in UK instead of Estonia?

During my Masters studies in Estonia, I understood that cyber security is not purely a technical field, but instead consists of core knowledge and skills from across different domains. Therefore, I decided to find a PhD programme which shared this viewpoint. UCL's Cybersecurity Centre for Doctoral Training has strong multidisciplinary training elements, which has helped me to form a broader understanding of the field and enrich my own research. Additionally, it is an exciting opportunity to be in the forefront of world-leading research, working with global experts amidst an ever-evolving cyber security landscape.

In what ways do you think you’ll utilise your knowledge in cyber security in the future?

I am still developing my specific future plans, but I think that my cyber security knowledge and skills open various pathways forward. In industry I could advise companies on how to make data-driven and evidence-based decisions to protect their assets against rising cyber security threats. Within government, I could support policymaking and help draft legislation to strengthen resilience against potential cyber-attacks. In academia, I could focus my research on developing more robust and innovative methods for improving security, detecting and repelling attacks, and responding to evolving threats.

What challenges you the most in the cyber security field?

A fundamental challenge is to ensure that stakeholders take cybersecurity seriously, so that there is neither negligence nor hyperbole over how probable and consequential various threats may be. This itself depends on another serious challenge of communicating cybersecurity risks to business owners and employees alike, to ensure appropriate security measures are taken throughout an organisation.

Do you have any encouragement for those who might be intimidated by the complicated reputation of cyber security but might take an interest in it?

Whilst cyber security is complex as a whole, it is important to recognise that it is a vast sector made up of many smaller pieces. No single person knows all the facets of all the answers, instead people with different niche areas collaborate and contribute their individual expertise to tackle shared challenges. I would encourage anybody to join the team if they understand their own particular area well, are motivated to learn and are comfortable collaborating with other experts.

Do you think women have any advantages in working in cyber security over men or vice versa?

Not at all, I think cybersecurity is open to anyone.