SheHacks is a group of female cyber security professionals and enthusiasts in Kenya. Evelyn Kilel & Laura Tich are the founders of SheHacks, who work towards bridging the skills and gender gap in the information security space in Kenya. This group of female cybersecurity professionals comes together every year to share experiences, knowledge and mentor-ship through numerous events such as the HackFests. This year’s HackFest ran from the 18th to 19th October.
Microsoft through the cloud and AI security Engineering team has reiterated its commitment to advocate for women with an interest in security engineering through SheHacks annual HackFest festival. The pronouncement made during this year’s annual HackFest held at Strathmore business school, underscores the organizations commitment to supporting developing, sponsoring and advocating for women with an interest in security engineering.
The cybersecurity space in Kenya has evolved over the years with more cyber threats facing Kenyans. According to the communications Authority’s first quarter report for 2018/19 , the National Cybersecurity Center detected 3.82 million cyber threats, a rise from 3.46 million reported from the last quarter. With 43% of all cyber attacks aimed at small businesses, there is a need to have qualified cyber security experts.
Speaking during the SheHacks event, Hayden Hainsworth, General Manager for cybersecurity engineering at Microsoft highlighted the importance of such strategic partnerships and events in developing competency in tackling cyber threats in a rapidly evolving tech ecosystem. “My mission is geared towards empowering our customers and partners to get and stay secure on their journey to cloud while inspiring the next generation of cybersecurity engineers.”
“We are really delighted to be partnering with SheHacks for this year’s Hackathon, with a focus to prepare women to thrive in the technology industry. We want to make it easy for anyone to take their next step forward in technology,” Hainsworth added.
On their part, SheHacks founders Evelyn Kilel and Laura Tich emphasized the need for increased support towards youth in Kenya. “Since we founded this initiative we have seen tremendous growth in the number of women and young people who want to take part. This year alone, we are hosting close to 300 young ladies from Kenya to equip and empower them with the required technical know-how to combat cyber-crime,” they said.
According to Pratik Roy, a Modern workplace and Security Business Group lead for Microsoft in North, West, East, Southern Africa Levant and Pakistan, Kenya has one of the highest numbers of internet users with over 46 million people having access to the service according to internet world statistics, but with the acceleration of digitization comes insecure consumer habits. This coupled with inadequate cybersecurity measures in key sectors turns Kenya into a lucrative target for cyber criminals. The collaboration with SheHacks provides a great opportunity to empower more youth with the right skills- most urgent cybersecurity skills to accelerate digital success in the region.
The participating countries of the SheHacks hackathon festivals are Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. This comes to show that SheHacks believes in diversity and inclusivity, and they are now working towards bringing more countries on board.
SheHacks is a great platform for women to work together so as to bridge the skills and gender gap in information security in Kenya and beyond. Kenya lost KES 30 billion to cyber related crimes in 2018 according to a report by cyber security firm Seriamu. The report goes on to show that though cybercrimes pose a threat to the economy, most organizations are still ill equipped to counter such attacks with Kenya having only 1,700 certified cyber security skilled professionals.