Holly Wright values the future’s endless possibilities. Not only is she an advocate for STEM, an innovative and growing approach to education that integrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but her stellar career as an IBM cyber security engineer is a clear expression of that philosophy.

Source: Women Love Tech – “My journey to cyber security is a little different to most people,” says Holly. “I became interested in engineering because I saw that somebody had managed to teleport an atom from one island to another.

“I thought that was something that could one day change the world as we know it. I wanted to be a part of an industry where we can make a real difference in the world.”

She fulfilled that strongly held ambition when she joined global tech giant IBM, where she is now a developer for IBM QRadar, working to create new ways to identify cyber threats through deep network analysis. Her job lets her bring together all her skills, from design and implementation, testing and automation, as well as leading and applying new cyber security strategies that will have an enormous impact on the way the world conducts business. Her passion for the future and its endless possibilities is just one of many reasons IBM chose Holly be involved in launching their world-beating hybrid cloud innovation, a next-generation advance that works in tandem with Redhat OpenShift to create one of the most forward-thinking hybrid cloud business solutions ever devised.

Holly’s deep knowledge of cyber security makes her an integral part of the software development team in Australia, leveraging hybrid cloud methodologies and architectures to build security products for the future. This technological revolution sits at the heart of IBM’s hybrid cloud approach to IT and promises to transform business operations around the globe as it unlocks unprecedented value for business from their data resources and simultaneously drives cutting edge innovation. Red Hat OpenShift, explains IBM global president Jim Whitehurst, forms the connective tissue between all the infrastructure used by IBM clients, both in their business premises and in the cloud.

“It allows them to write applications once and run them anywhere while also standardising the approach to development security and operations from any cloud from the vendor,” Jim Whitehurst says. He also says that analysts believe that a hybrid cloud approach delivers two and a half times the value of a public cloud strategy alone. “Security professionals are faced with too much data, too many tools and alerts, and not enough resources,” says Holly. “As applications move to the cloud, data becomes more of a shared resource, and infrastructure becomes increasingly diverse across hybrid, multicloud environments, making traditional security no longer as effective.

“With IBM Cloud Pak for Security you can bring together teams, tools and data with a unified platform that gives analysts a one user experience across threat management. It also connects to existing security tools and data sources, without requiring data migration, to increase visibility across hybrid, multicloud environments.” International business giants such as Coca-Cola are now making OpenShift the foundation of their digital transformation, bringing major “mission-critical” applications to the IBM cloud, which is optimised for hybrid environments. IBM’s Holly Wright speaks with Robyn Foyster about the changing landscape of cybersecurity, innovation, and hybrid technology.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in cybersecurity?

There are a whole range of challenges the cybersecurity industry is facing. One that comes to mind is the increasing sophistication and collaboration we see in attackers. Many attacker groups are operating like companies – where orchestrating and launching cyber-attacks is someone’s full time job, and they get a salary and sick-leave and holidays just like the rest of us. The increasing levels of coordination in these groups means we see an increased number of persistent attacks, where it’s not just a simple in and out job, but a calculated and invasive attack executed over months or years.

On top of that, the cyber-security industry is facing a skills crisis, with an anticipated 3.5M unfilled cyber-security jobs by the end of 2021. That makes it harder for cyber-defenders to keep up with the pace of evolving attacks, meaning we spend more time playing catch up rather than innovating to develop more secure defenses.

As IBM’s Global President Jim Whitehurst said: “From IBM’s perspective, we’ve seen years’ worth of digital transformation take place in months.” Notably, he pointed to hybrid technology as one of two technologies, along with AI, that is going to ‘shape the future’. What are the benefits of hybrid technology? And how do you see it shaping the future for security? 

Hybrid technology allows people to “have the best of both worlds” – without having to build complicated, unsustainable IT environments. It means you can get all of your sensitive workloads that need a secure, on-premise environment working seamlessly with your business critical workloads that need to scale to match demand. A hybrid mindset acknowledges the fact that different applications will have different requirements, and instead focuses on ensuring that applications can run wherever they need to be run.

I see this resulting in security applications that are much more scalable and have a wealth of integration possibilities – meaning that it becomes feasible for companies to compose a “web” of security offerings that protect against and detect threats that previously would’ve been missed.

Do individuals and companies underestimate the importance and real need to be cyber safe?

Absolutely. Cybersecurity is often an afterthought for both individuals and companies. All too often, the convenience of re-using a password beats the “hypothetical” impacts of being attacked. It’s not until someone does fall victim to an attack that they regret not taking the extra time to set their systems up properly. That’s where the “people” part of our job in IBM Security becomes so important. We try to focus on security that doesn’t feel like a chore – using a fingerprint instead of a password for example.

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