Women’s Alliance for Cyber Security promotes women to compete in cyber defense competitions

Celeste Ki

Members of Women’s Alliance for Cyber Security do more than coding and programming together. They build a network of women to support each other and compete in cyber defense competitions.

Women’s Alliance for Cyber Security (WACS) is a female-focused cyber defense and cyber security club at Iowa State University. WACS started when Jamie Kruk, junior in computer engineering, went to the engineering career fair in spring 2017. A recruiter who saw she had experience in cyber defense challenged her to start a club to get more women involved. After gathering enough interest, WACS started as an official ISU organization in fall 2017.

Yamini Mathur, senior in computer science, stated that WACS serves to help retain the number of women in cyber defense, prepare for the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions and give students the opportunity to learn what it’s like to work in the cyber security field.

“I always have to think about what I’m coding or building and how vulnerable it is,” Iris Top, freshman in computer computer engineering, said. “This club has opened my eyes to how everything is vulnerable and we need to protect it.”

WACS has regular meetings on Mondays at 6 p.m. and workshop meetings on Saturdays at 3 p.m., both in Pearson 2125. Monday meetings consist of presentations on topics related to cyber security, such as VirtualBox and VPN. Their Saturday meetings are for members who missed the Monday meeting, or need additional help. Meetings are aimed to prepare members to compete for competitions. They participated in their first Cyber Defense Competition at ISU on Oct. 7, 2017.

Janet Villegas-Cornejo, treasurer of WACS, stated that a big milestone for WACS was Nov. 29, 2017 when they had their first guest speaker, Kaitlyn Bestmenheider, present for them. Bestmenheider is a graduate student at Pace University in information security and assurance who gave a lecture on cryptography on Google Hangouts. “We saw the room get filled with people, and it was also a big milestone for us because one of our goals we set to achieve on our first year was to have a presenter,” Villegas-Cornejo said. “The large attendance and interest helped us to get our name out there.”

WACS is open to all ISU students, including those who are not studying computer science or computer engineering. Kandy Mora, senior in industrial design, enjoys coding and technology as a hobby.

“People don’t recognize how technology is changing so fast and how protective we should be of our own information,” Mora said. “As an individual, I feel I should be more aware of those things.”