Top officials turn over Twitter accounts to 'share the mic' with Black cybersecurity experts

Top officials turn over Twitter accounts to 'share the mic' with Black cybersecurity experts
© iStock

Top federal officials and cybersecurity experts participated Friday in an online campaign to “share the mic” in cyber, giving control of their Twitter accounts to Black cybersecurity officials and experts in an effort to combat systemic racism. 

The event, billed online as #ShareTheMicInCyber, featured the accounts of over 100 individuals and almost two dozen organizations used to promote diversity in cybersecurity throughout Friday. Twitter Security hosted live audio conversations through Twitter Spaces as part of the all-day event. 

Officials participating included Jen Easterly, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), who handed her Twitter account to Ayan Islam, the Critical Infrastructure portfolio lead at CISA’s Cybersecurity Division, Vulnerability Management, Insights Branch.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Participating in #ShareTheMicInCyber is special to me since I have a chance to give back and share my unorthodox path into cybersecurity,” Islam said in a statement provided to The Hill. “As I progress in the field, I notice it requires diverse technical and non-technical perspectives for a more secure and resilient critical infrastructure.”

“There are many ways to serve and protect, and hopefully my story can encourage others that they can join the mission too and contribute with their unique perspectives and skills,” Islam said.

Easterly welcomed Islam to the account Friday morning, tweeting prior to handing over control that she was “thrilled to spotlight this #cybersecurity star.”

Rob Joyce, the director of Cybersecurity at the National Security Agency (NSA), also participated in the effort, giving control of his Twitter account to Talya Parker, the founder and director of Black Girls in Cyber and a privacy engineer at Google. 

“With over 3.5 million unfilled #cybersecurity #jobs, my goal is to bring awareness to opportunities in cyber and #informationsecurity to create a pipeline for organizations to find women of color,” Parker tweeted on Joyce’s account.

The event came as CISA and other government agencies have increasingly promoted the need to diversify their cybersecurity workforce, with CISA earlier this week awarding $2 million to two organizations that focus on developing cybersecurity training for underserved populations, including people of color. 

The Aspen Institute’s Tech Policy Hub and Aspen Digital published a report last month highlighting these concerns. The report described the cyber workforce as “overwhelmingly” white and male, and noted that it was “estimated that only 4% of cybersecurity workers self-identify as Hispanic, 9% as Black, and 24% as women.”

“Less diversity means more blind spots in our threat assessments, and fewer creative ideas for solutions,” Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodMaternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now Five victories Democrats can be thankful for For Democrats it should be about votes, not megaphones MORE (D-Ill.), the former chair of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity panel, said at an event launching the report last month. “With cybersecurity threats increasing every single day, those are risks that we simply can’t afford to take.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley —TSA to strengthen rail sector cybersecurity TSA issues directives to rail sector to strengthen cybersecurity US to restart 'Remain in Mexico' program following court order MORE said in February that one of his goals was to diversify CISA’s workforce, noting at the time that around a third of the agency’s workers were from minority groups. 

“We must ensure a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive cybersecurity workforce, a workforce that reflects America,” Mayorkas said during a keynote address at the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition. “With diversity comes more diverse perspectives that help inform better policy and decision making.”

-Updated at 7:55 p.m.