By Kema Rajandran
When Karen Stones left school at the young age of fifteen, she never imagined she would be receiving the award for Information Security Professional of the Year from the Australian Information Security Association (AISA).
Last October, Ms Stones became the first female AISA member to win the award. Voted by her peers, the award reflects Ms Stones’ significant contributions, achievements and initiatives to the security sector.
“I was very surprised [to win]to be honest, especially given the quality of all the nominees. However I do feel honoured to be considered worthy of the award and particularly in light of the actual fact that I’m a strong advocate of workplace diversity, including gender equality,” she said.
Upon completing her GCSE’s in the United Kingdom, Ms Stones left school without advanced qualifications for economic reasons; the appeal of working in a bank was originally for the benefit of job security for her.
“I started life as a teller in a mutual society in the UK and progressed from there. Once I became involved in information security there were significant opportunities to progress within the banking area – the work being diverse and a constant challenge.”
Tasked with managing a talented high performance team at Bankwest in her most recent role, her team supported the delivery of security in all business change, including projects of all sizes.
Ms Stones was responsible for managing a large portfolio of up to 70 concurrent projects at Bankwest and then went on secondment to Commonwealth Bank with a mandate to review, revise and implement the Group information security policies and framework.
With a stellar 27-year career and still going strong, Ms Stones is as passionate about Information Security as she was from those early days.
“Information security is a passion for me. When I first started out in my career in banking, a large proportion of my role was investigating staff fraud.”
“I played a huge role in reporting on, and disciplining many of my colleagues until one day I realised that there was actually more I could do to help my colleagues do the right thing through policy and compliance and basic security awareness.”
It was undergoing research at this stage in her life about information security – combined with a great manager – that lead Ms Stones into her self-confessed addiction for information security.
“I like that information security is a subject that effects everyone, of all ages, and that every change, advancement or initiative has to consider information security implications.”
Effect everyone it certainly does, with our reliance on technology growing exponentially as companies find ways to be more efficient, respond quicker, work harder and save costs by moving more services online.
But with the rise of technology comes a lack of face-to-face communication leaving many open to cyber security issues such as identity fraud or bullying.
As a mother and step-mother to five children, Ms Stones says we need improvements to cyber security.
“The reliance on social media and its implications on our privacy is a topic that is close to me and I regularly present on this.”
“Speaking as a parent, I regularly talk with other parents and schools about why this is the case, and I believe it’s because of the 24/7 nature of the internet.”
“All children want is to belong in some way and the different social media sites provides a perfect outlet for this, unfortunately it’s not always a positive experience. Coupled with the fact that we no longer equip our children and young adults with resiliency tools, we, I think, have a bullying epidemic on our hands.”
Ms Stones thinks terrorism is a fact of life and it’s unlikely to change.
“Unfortunately, when hysteria is brought into play, there are no hard rules around what the reaction might be.”
“Social media provides a platform for societal ‘sheep’ to huddle together knowing that life will never be the same, that normal activities, must be cut short or ceased.”
Ms Stones says that it’s in this way that social media is spreading messages far better than any one terrorist can.
“I think there is a level of activity and media hype around terrorism that I find distasteful at best and at worst damaging to international relations.”
With that said, perhaps there is a need for binding international laws that govern how countries behave online.
“No. Independence in thought is what makes up our world and I don’t believe that what works for one country would necessarily work for all. Of course there always some exceptions.”