The modern ‘Sherlock Holmes’ of the cyber world…in Silicon Valley


It’s no secret that information is power and it’s this notion that has sustained the initial interest in cyber forensics for young Security Engineer, Prima Virani.

With an interest in information security and forensics from an early age, Ms Virani was drawn to the cyber security domain, much like Sherlock Holmes to a difficult case.

Originally from India, she left her parents and moved to Perth to chase her dreams and complete a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

For those who aren’t too tech focussed, the world of cyber forensics may not seem so self-explanatory.

Virani explains that after a crime occurs, a computer or network forensics analyst would be responsible for gathering evidence from a suspect’s workstation or mobile device of the network their workstation was on – in simple terms, playing Sherlock Holmes but on a computer or a network.

While she says it’s an ever-changing field with big challenges, it’s exactly these facets that make her love her work. Virani has worked in a couple of different roles, including Information Security Coordinator at INPEX before country hopping again, this time to the USA.

“My role at INPEX entailed a variety of infrastructure security-related tasks such as daily monitoring and analysis of security logs, reviewing infrastructure changes from security point of view, vulnerability management, building and deploying firewall clusters etc,” she explains.

“In the short career of mine, so far the biggest highlight has been to be able to crack through the job-market in the USA and land my job at Pandora Media Inc just a couple of months ago.”

While only being in the USA since April, Virani says the opportunities are better, especially in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s based with Pandora.

“There is so much innovation and so many emerging companies right now. I hear that the area is going through another tech-boom at the moment and this one being much better and much more stable than the one in the early 2000s.”

A hard-working, intelligent individual, Virani never stops learning but doesn’t forget the help of others in her achievements so far.

“My supervisor at INPEX, Eric Appelboom, I reported to him directly for the last couple of years. I have learnt 75
– 80 per cent of what I know today in my job from him – mostly technical things and a lot of non-technical things like organisational, and political as well.”

“My only previous role to INPEX was in Incident Management support at a University and the experience gained from my degree. It definitely helped to know the basics well but I have learnt the most on the job.”

Cyber forensics has become a popular topic in security and aside from the knowledge of IT technology, Virani says it is important to be adaptable and learn things quickly, particularly as it is becoming one of the fastest growing and in-demand areas of security.

“I think of the biggest benefits of social media is that the youth are a lot more aware not to generalize and stereotype racially which in turn eliminates a lot of hatred against certain communities and races, which means there will be a lot less people left out or sidelined.”

“The word ‘hacker’ only started becoming popular about 4-5 years before I completed high school. Statistics dictate that identity theft is on the rise. It’s been steadily increasing for the last 4 years now. With the amount of information about people out there on the internet, it’s easier now than ever to steal someone’s identity.”

“It’s very hard being specific about laws regarding IT since it moves so fast, I think we have enough laws to cover most of the basis.”

“If we did have binding international laws, it would more likely mean that a few countries would benefit out of it and the rest would fall victim to it.”

“I believe in the larger scheme of things, the internet is the last place right now that should become just another politically controlled environment.”

With the rise, popularity and dependence society has on social media today, some would say that it’s made it easier for law to be broken, identities stolen and terror to spread however Virani says its affecting us in great ways.

“I think of the biggest benefits of social media is that the youth are a lot more aware not to generalize and stereotype racially which in turn eliminates a lot of hatred against certain communities and races, which means there will be a lot less people left out or sidelined.”

“With the availability of so much information out there it’s increasingly harder for the political leaders to misguide people about what they’re doing and the impacts of it. Collectively it’s definitely helping stop feed the beast of terror and hatred in the long run.”

With the support of her parents, Virani is striving ahead ready to take any opportunities as they arise and says she hasn’t yet experienced any difficulty or roadblocks due to her gender.

“Technically no, but culturally sometimes it seems like it is harder, however I don’t think I have enough experience yet. If you ask me in five years time, I would have an answer.”

A statement which could be down to the fact she is early in her career or it could be a sign of changing times – a fast growing area that could just as quickly be leaving behind the stereotype that it’s a male dominated field.

Let’s hope in five years time, Virani’s answer remains the same but progressed; that technical skills are more important and valued than ones gender and that it no longer “seems” hard to be a woman in the field.