Joyce Hunter: Spearheading a leading cybersecurity think tank

Women in Security

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Cybersecurity is a key aspect of an ever-evolving IT industry. Irrespective of the field, every industrial category involves data, mostly digital, that regulates company-oriented, all-encompassing processes. The data inventory collects and possesses sensitive facets of any organization, which, if stolen, can be leveraged for various malicious activities. These activities can significantly impact an organization, including its assets and employees’ information. As a result, there is a greater need to integrate a secure cybersecurity system and encourage aspirants to do so. Joyce Hunter soon recognized the absence of a dedicated institute that solely focuses on providing objective analytical research publicly available to policymakers, government leaders, and critical infrastructure stakeholders around the world, except for the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), and hence joined as the Executive Director.

Joyce’s keen sight for a change stems from her nature as a strategic doer and philanthroprenuer. Being a multi-dimensional experienced leader, she offers a “big picture’ to clients by combining knowledge of current business needs with expertise in applying a spectrum of technologies, standards, and partners to meet local, national, and global challenges. In addition, she leverages a diverse background in executive coaching, strategic management, and information technology advisory services to industry, non-profits, and all levels of government.

The evolution 

ICIT began with doing research and providing published content specifically on cybersecurity. Listening to the market, the cybersecurity think tank noticed that there was a demand for collaboration and communication, so the team held in-person breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings and three major events (Spring Briefing, Fall Briefing, and its’ annual gala recognizing public and private sector cybersecurity leaders). Due to the pandemic, the think tank has shifted to a virtual model that enables it to attract national and international members and partners. The objective and mission of the institute are to cultivate a cybersecurity renaissance that will improve the resiliency of its Nation’s 16 critical infrastructure sectors, defend its democratic institutions, and empower generations of cybersecurity leaders. Now ICIT is the nation’s leading cybersecurity-related entity that provides objective, non-partisan research, advisory, and education to legislative, commercial, and public-sector cybersecurity stakeholders.

To elucidate, ICIT programmes and initiatives support federal cybersecurity leaders and practitioners in all 16 critical infrastructure sectors defined by the Department of Homeland Security and can be leveraged by other community members impacted by digital adversaries, including small and medium-sized business owners, academia, and other industries impacted by digital threats. While competitors such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and others focus on specific aspects such as supply chain and DevSecOps, ICIT  solely focuses on cybersecurity in particular.

"With a cumulative sense of responsibility, we can all stand in favour of progress and equity and communicate those positive gains to the rising generations of women in cybersecurity"

Values prior to sale

ICIT has made accountability, transparency, and integrity the bedrock of its value system. To realize its mission, ICIT and its Fellows provide objective, analytical research that is publicly available to policymakers, government leaders, and critical infrastructure stakeholders around the world.

ICIT does not take any political positions, engage in political activities, lobby lawmakers or government officials. The institute provides bipartisan, vendor agnostic technology education on today’s most pressing critical infrastructure challenges. “At no time do ICIT’s efforts represent the interests of a single Fellow or a group of Fellows. The goal of every initiative is always grounded in providing objective, nonpartisan research, education, and advisory to cybersecurity community stakeholders,” says Joyce. “In the spirit of honesty and transparency and to promote the sharing of knowledge with the community, all briefs are initially made available at no cost to the public via the ICIT website.

ICIT understands the pivotal role educators play in providing trusted research to policymakers as part of their decision-making process. Joyce feels honoured to be a conduit between honest experts and agency, legislative, and critical infrastructure leaders in need of knowledge. By adhering to these values, its fellows, researchers, and partners can be absolute in their confidence that, together, they are strengthening the critical infrastructure sectors of this great nation and ensuring the availability of critical services for civilians, civil servants, and members of the military.

Joyce Hunter
Joyce Hunter

Encouraging women to embrace cyber

As a modern think-tank, Joyce states that the Institute is a firm believer in equality and kindness in the workplace and supports diversity among its staff and fellows. She believes that diversity encourages a culture where divergent opinions can be brought together to develop innovative solutions to solve some of the toughest problems the USA faces today. She says, “ICIT does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any form.

Joyce emphasizes the fact that women merely hold a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce; “Those numbers look a bit less thrilling if you only consider women in leadership roles.” This paradigm, however, is now changing and the cybersecurity field is rapidly becoming more welcoming and rewarding for women. Joyce wants to mentor all women of every age who have an interest in cybersecurity and help them develop a road map for their journey. She intends to speak at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) career days, as well as sit on industry panels and write thought leadership papers for the agriculture and healthcare industries. “With a cumulative sense of responsibility, we can all stand in favour of progress and equity and communicate those positive gains to the rising generations of women in cybersecurity,” says Joyce.

Transforming cybersecurity

The institute faces under-discussed risks, which are promises of panacea and silver-bullet solutions. Joyce states that organizations need to critically evaluate their vendor solutions, supply chains, and the security of any third parties that they or their vendors may be associated with. She says, “ICIT continues to develop new and exciting research and content and draws from an increasingly diverse pool of expert Fellows’ perspectives.” Moreover, she asserts, “due to a confluence of geopolitical events, emerging technologies, and the cyber talent shortage, the government is starting to care about and invest in both cybersecurity and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives.” Though the world is rapidly changing, we have a long road ahead to modernize and improve the resiliency of the current critical infrastructure. Joyce addresses that President Biden’s recent series of executive orders are a good start to pushing the federal government into creative thinking. However, the government will need to improve its outreach to STEM K–12 students and to diverse candidates. “If we want to have enough personnel to continue to secure our assets against digital adversaries,” stresses Joyce. “Flexibility with work from home can help expand the talent pools for organizations that are struggling in their geographic region, and migration to the cloud can help expedite modernization.” ICIT has already shifted the focus of its research and education to be proactive instead of reactive. She and her team hope that their non-partisan, vendor-agnostic, objective research can help critical infrastructure stakeholders improve the resiliency of their systems and strategically plan far in advance of adversarial trends. The think tank has instituted a Fellow’s group that serves as ICIT’s advisors, as the primary responsibility of an ICIT Fellow is to share their expertise with legislative, public, and private sector community members by engaging in various ICIT research publications, briefings, and events.

Joyce concludes by saying, “Cybersecurity is already evolving to focus less on perimeters and identity and more on zero-trust frameworks, risk-management, and strategic security allocation. Many are now doing their work in the cloud while their personnel work from home. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence loom on the horizon and ICIT will be one of the guiding lights.”

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