Demystifying Cyber: Tennisha Martin, the Ethical Hacker Who Founded BlackGirlsHack

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Tennisha Martin, the founding father of BlackGirlsHack, is working to diversify cyber and alter public opinion round hacking. “Our voices must be heard. We want range of thought as a lot as we want range of individuals.” (Courtesy of Tennisha Martin)

It would take a paradigm shift to defend our nationwide safety shifting ahead. Ladies and folks of shade needs to be on the forefront of this effort. Demystifying Cybersecurity, a #ShareTheMicInCyber and Ms. journal month-to-month collection, spotlights girls from the #ShareTheMicInCyber motion—highlighting the experiences of Black practitioners, driving a vital dialog on race within the cybersecurity trade, and shining a light-weight on Black consultants of their fields.


Tennisha Martin is the founder and government director of BlackGirlsHack, a nationwide cybersecurity nonprofit devoted to offering training and sources to underserved communities and rising range in cybersecurity. She has labored in a consulting capability for the federal government and within the personal sector for over 15 years doing safety testing, high quality assurance, penetration testing and venture administration. 

In her spare time, Martin is a mentor, a professor of laptop science and cybersecurity at Voorhees College and an advocate for range in cyber. 


Lauren Zabierek and Camille Stewart: What do you do? What does a traditional day appear to be for you?

Tennisha Martin: I’m a “penetration tester” and government director of BlackGirlsHack. A standard day for me entails working with underserved communities in serving to them to take over the world by discovering a spot in cybersecurity. I assist make strategic partnerships with organizations which might be hiring, discover dope inspiring folks to speak to them and assist them get licensed and educated for careers in cyber.

 As a penetration tester I seek the advice of with firms that want their internet and cellular functions examined to guarantee that they don’t expose their customers knowledge to vulnerabilities. If you consider your favourite social media websites and the data they comprise about you:  photos, your connections to folks and your loved ones and details about your day after day life, it’s necessary to these firms that that info stays personal. My job is to check and evaluation these websites and cellular functions to ensure a malicious actor just isn’t in a position to get entry to your personal info. 

Zabierek and Stewart: How does your work preserve folks secure?

Martin: When builders make methods, they sometimes base them on person tales or anticipated ways in which they suppose a person will use the system. For instance should you’ve ever used an internet utility and it informed you to not press the again button however to make use of the in-app navigation buttons, that’s most likely the results of somebody who used the system in a method it wasn’t designed.

As a penetration tester, your job is to think about the entire issues that the builders could not have considered and to seek out out if you should use these strategies to get knowledge out of the system. We act as a “dangerous man” to determine how somebody might discover and exploit weaknesses in a methods design or implementation. In contrast to the dangerous guys although, after we’re executed we inform the system house owners about what we did in order that they’ll repair the problems they’re exploited. You possibly can take into consideration this like baby-proofing a home. Penetration testers discover all of the methods a child can damage themselves and repair it earlier than they really can. 

I assist make strategic partnerships with organizations which might be hiring, discover dope inspiring folks to speak to them and assist them get licensed and educated for careers in cyber.

Tennisha Martin

Zabierek and Stewart: You name your self an “moral hacker.” What does that imply?

Martin: Hacking has traditionally had a unfavorable connotation and is usually related to the unauthorized entry to knowledge in a system or laptop. For these of us in moral hacking, it’s a skilled profession that many individuals don’t perceive.

As an moral hacking advocate, I work to supply publicity to careers in moral hacking and to supply consciousness to the final inhabitants to get extra girls and youngsters inquisitive about hacking as a career.

Zabierek and Stewart: How did you get into cybersecurity?

Martin: Kicking and screaming and combating my method in. I began BGH due to the struggles I used to be having moving into the trade. Once I determined to make the transition into cybersecurity I assumed that primarily based on my technical testing abilities, certifications, and a masters in cybersecurity that I shouldn’t have an issue. I’ve 5 masters levels however I’d solely placed on the one which was most related to the job that I used to be making use of for together with my bachelors in electrical and laptop engineering. I utilized for jobs and would both hear precisely nothing or not a great match. If I did get suggestions it was that I wanted extra hands-on expertise so I began educating myself hacking in “tryhackme”, “hackthebox” and no matter Seize The Flag video games I might discover. As I discovered extra, I began internet hosting weekly lab lessons to work with different individuals who had been additionally attempting to study. I didn’t have all of the solutions and I couldn’t get via all of the rooms however I constructed a group of individuals on the net website Meetup.comwho faithfully got here out and discovered how one can hack with me. 

Across the similar time I began an instagram web page with the intention of sharing sources similar to cheap coaching lessons, gross sales on books, and data on careers in cybersecurity. I additionally joined #ShareTheMicInCyber and thru the group electronic mail listing I acquired my first job as a penetration tester. It was via this course of that I discovered that I had been going about moving into cybersecurity all improper. I had been attempting to out study, out educate, out every little thing the competitors alone when the key was in utilizing my community and dealing along with like minded folks.  

Ladies solely signify 25 % of the trade and that quantity will get  even decrease when you begin moving into a number of the fields like penetration testing. Our voices must be heard. We want range of thought as a lot as we want range of individuals.

Tennisha Martin

Zabierek and Stewart: What do you would like folks knew about working in cybersecurity?

Martin: Folks have a look at cybersecurity as some legendary place which you can’t get to until you’re extremely technical, a grasp developer and aced all of your highschool math lessons—however that’s not the case.

The cyber panorama modifications day by day and it’s important to work at it on a regular basis. It’s not simply one thing that you just take an examination and also you’re in there. You must perceive that it’s a shifting goal and it’s important to perceive that whereas it’s altering, you should regularly study and perceive these modifications.

The opposite factor I want folks understood is that there aren’t sufficient girls in cybersecurity. We want extra, however to do this, now we have to make it a spot that’s extra accepting of all of the others which might be on the market desirous to get in. 

Greater than training, greater than training and getting hands-on expertise, I’d say that should you’re attempting to get into cybersecurity, you should discover your tribe.

Zabierek and Stewart: Why is cybersecurity necessary for girls?

Martin: As a result of there aren’t quite a lot of us on this house and we have to let folks know that we’re there! Ladies solely signify 25 % of the trade, and that quantity will get  even decrease when you begin moving into a number of the fields like penetration testing. Our voices must be heard. We want range of thought as a lot as we want range of individuals.

Zabierek and Stewart: What do you would like you knew if you had been attempting to get into cybersecurity?

Martin: I attempted for a number of years to get into cybersecurity alone. I paid to get my resume executed, I tailor-made my resume for every job and generally I even took the time to jot down custom-made cowl letters. I spent days and hours hacking via containers and recorded movies of myself educating moral hacking rules all in an effort to lift my profile within the trade.

What I discovered via all of that’s that whereas placing the time in “the fitness center” issues to creating you a greater hacker, that I didn’t start to see any actual change in my job search till I began creating and utilizing my folks community.

If I had been to advise somebody new of 1 factor that’s the key to success for moving into cybersecurity, it’s to start out speaking to folks and telling them what you’re attempting to do. Creating and rising your community helps to increase your attain of the place you’re in a position to get to and it’s important to your success. Greater than training, greater than training and getting hands-on expertise, I’d say that should you’re attempting to get into cybersecurity, you should discover your tribe. Get a gaggle of individuals which you can bounce concepts off, and discuss your expertise and prolong your attain.  The extra eyes you have got in search of jobs the higher. 

Cybersecurity, like many tech specialties, has excellent wage prospects and a scarcity of certified folks.

Tennisha Martin

Zabierek and Stewart: How does BlackGirlsHack match into the bigger cybersecurity group?

Martin: There are quite a lot of nice nonprofit organizations out right here which might be doing nice work to assist improve range in cybersecurity. Most organizations are conscious of their shortcomings on the subject of range and inclusion and if this is applicable to your group, attain out to organizations which might be close to and pricey to your worker’s hearts and use the chance to not solely assist causes your workforce cares about however improve your range and inclusion efforts as nicely.

BlackGirlsHack welcomes group companions and strategic partnerships to assist improve range. We’d love that will help you improve your range efforts and assist you give again to assist enhance the way forward for cybersecurity. 

Zabierek and Stewart: Self care is so necessary within the safety world. What do you do to unwind or chill out?

Martin: Self care is soooo necessary. I believe in my effort to take over the world and assist different folks take over the world, I typically neglect about taking good care of myself so it’s necessary that your plans for world domination embody self care.

I take advantage of journey, gardening, poker and dangerous TV to assist preserve me sane. Once I can, I prefer to journey to a brand new place and spend time with my husband disconnected from units and I attempt to get all of the massages and spa providers I can. I additionally began gardening. I develop tomatoes, peppers, spinach, onions, broccoli, and zucchini. Once I was new to gardening I’d title my tomatoes however as I acquired higher they grew to become too many to call. Gardening is surprisingly stress-free and I take pleasure in seeing the modifications day after day to my vegetables and fruit. Considered one of my favourite actions to unwind is taking part in poker—I really like Texas Maintain’em. My day after day responsible pleasure is dangerous TV. I watch all the primary responder and authorized reveals irrespective of how dangerous. My favorites are the 911 and Chicago (Hearth, PD and Med) reveals.

Zabierek and Stewart: For those who might wave a magic wand to vary something in regards to the cybersecurity trade, the regulation or know-how ecosystem, what would you modify and the way would you do it?

Martin: At any time there’s one thing near 1,000,000 cybersecurity positions open, a lot of that are in search of extremely expert professionals. On the opposite finish of the spectrum there are most likely a whole lot of 1000’s of people who find themselves new to the trade and are in search of jobs. Cybersecurity, like many tech specialties, has excellent wage prospects and a scarcity of certified folks.

With my magic wand I’d persuade extra firms to coach entry-level employees and supply them with the abilities essential to do the job and the perception into their particular enterprise. By coaching entry-level employees to develop within the positions, these firms can scale back their payroll expenditures whereas rising their coaching budgets and assure that they’ve acquired a talented workforce that’s educated about their enterprise.

At BlackGirlsHack, we’re working with firms to assist develop pipelines to employment the place the businesses arrange internships to coach newer staff. These staff can then get the certifications and data specialised to their expertise and be capable to fill numerous vital roles. 

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