Miryam Adjiashvili (Miri X) started fiddling with computers since she was six, and she reached the level of a skilled programmer by the age of 14. Soon, her unique abilities got recognized, and she was invited to work in an elite cyber unit of the Israeli Defense Forces. Now, at the age of 24, Miri is a cybersecurity specialist in CYE, an Israeli firm specializing in finding security holes for ‘Fortune 500’ companies and helping them develop fixes before the bad guys have a chance to exploit them.
To fully devote herself to offensive security, she skipped college and focused on the practical side of things, which makes up for an interesting story of following what is ostensibly an atypical path in career development. We had a chat with Miri to discuss this matter and also hear her thoughts on how this space opens up for women today and why young girls shouldn’t be hesitant to go for it.
TN: Can you share with us what it was that inspired you so strongly to join the cybersecurity field from such a young age?
Miri X: When I was a child, my parents bought me a computer because I was always interested in how programs are built. They then enrolled me in a programming course, and after that, I learned cybersecurity in the army (Israel Defense Forces). The rest, shall we say, is history.
TN: We understand that you dropped your college studies to allow your professional progress to flourish. Are degrees in computer science and infosec obsolete or redundant today, or would you say that your case is a niche?
Miri X: While I think degrees are important, I had the professional knowledge to succeed without needing a degree. In fact, most of the hackers I know don’t have degrees but had the necessary experience. When you’re passionate about something, experience is often much more relevant than textbooks.
TN: How easy is it for a young and skillful hacker to get sucked into the dark side, and what it was that has pushed you and kept you to “the light”?
Miri X: In all aspects of life, it’s essential to maintain your moral compass. Simply because you can do something does not mean that you should.
TN: What can you tell us about your days working as a cybersecurity specialist in the Israeli Air Force?
Miri X: Confidential.
TN: What’s your role now at CYE, and what was the challenge that convinced you to join the team there?
Miri X: I am a hacker and penetration tester. I hack into companies and provide recommendations on how they can improve their cyber postures. CYE’s unique approach towards cybersecurity, which prioritizes vulnerabilities based on their potential business risk, was something that I found very interesting. We also work with multiple industries in countries around the world. Every day, the work is different and exciting.
TN: How important are red teams in cybersecurity today, and how widely are these “active security improvement” processes deployed at the top level?
Miri X: Red Teams are extremely important. Each and every day, companies are being hacked, and user data is getting breached. It’s very important for companies to have strong cyber postures and understand what is happening in their networks. We are seeing that these exercises are being deployed at the top level, and executives are increasingly aware of the need to invest in cybersecurity.
TN: Is hacking Fortune 500 companies today easy, or is it getting more challenging thanks to an increasing awareness of the need to implement proper security practices?
Miri X: Each day is increasingly challenging. It is like a cat and mouse game. Every day, new exploits and vulnerabilities are being found, but also new patches, improvements, and defenses are coming out.
TN: If you were to suggest a single thing to the IT teams of these companies that would make the biggest difference in their security, what would it be?
Miri X: Review your networks and policies. Know what and where your vulnerabilities are and which are the most important in securing your critical business assets.
TN: How hard is it for a young woman to enter a space dominated by men, and have you personally faced any difficulties on that part?
Miri X: Personally, I have not faced any difficulties in this regard and believe that as time goes on, more and more women will be filling these roles.
TN: Do you feel that things are changing and the dynamics are shifting today in terms of women enjoying equal opportunities in the space, or are we still far from what would be considered a diverse and pretty much balanced environment?
Miri X: I believe that we are on the same page or certainly moving in the right direction.
TN: What would you say to young women who aspire to follow a career in cybersecurity? Do you have any advice for them?
Miri X: If you have a passion for something, do it. Put your heart into it and continue learning and being curious.