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Growing trend: there are very few women in IT security

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June 6, 2013

According to a recent survey, there appears to be a two to three-year old trend emerging and it's now getting worse: women are avoiding cyber security alltogether even more than they are avoiding the rest of the IT industry itself.

Of the more than 2,500 people who took cyber security training in the U.K. last year, just 6.2 percent were women. The overall number of women choosing to take up internet security courses also declined overall by a staggering 19.5 percent between 2011 and 2012.

However, during the same period, the number of men on the courses more than doubled, growing by 118 percent so there's definetely a disconnect.

Some training firms in the United Kingdom blame the shortfall on sexism and, to a lesser extent, to inferior lessons in school focused on teaching basic office skills rather than hard computer science. But not everyone agrees on that.

Women are generally rare in the IT and telecom industry, making up just 18 percent of the total workforce, but it appears they're even rarer in IT security.

Bill Walker, technical director and cybersecurity teacher at IT security firm QA in the U.K. says-- "Itís still unclear as to why women are so under-represented in such an important and fast-growing part of Britainís IT economy. Various theories abound, from gender stereotyping to teaching the wrong kind of technology."

"Despite the steep rise in men taking internet security training over the past year, the United Kingdom is still falling short of the number of people needed. It has to be easier, more affordable and more appealing to women, in order for them to enter this vital segment of the IT economy," said Walker.

Furthermore, a National Audit Office report in February suggests that cyber crime costs Britain between £18 billion and £27 billion a year, and continues to increase. It also suggested that there is a severe lack of decent workers who can step it to help stop online attacks and warned that the skills gap was so severe it could take up to 20 years to close.

In just 2011, the National Cyber Security Program pledged to invest £650m over five years to shore up Britain's cyber-security defences after suggesting that cyber attacks posed a threat to the country as severe as terrorism.

The security firm's numbers were released following a report from the Women's Business Council which insisted that "women should not just try to fit into the economy, they should be shaping it".

The report found that 2.4 million women who are currently out of work would like to find a job, while a further 1.3 million women want more hours at their current role.

It also reveals that getting more women involved in the IT work force today could increase economic growth by 0.5 percent a year, resulting in a GDP improvement of about 10 percent by 2030.

As many legal observers had predicted, President Barack Obama has come out today in full force against patent trolls, and has issued five executive actions it will take against companies that collect patents for the sole purpose of licensing them and suing other companies that may or may not be violating them.

The President has ordered that patent owners regularly update their ownership information so they can't hide patents in other entities.

It has also requested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office enhance employee training to decrease the chances of broad patents being approved at large.

The other actions revolve around improved education and training for citizens, entrepreneurs, and USPTO workers, and ensuring that the U.S. International Trade Commission's power to bar the importation of goods to the U.S. is proper and that the process behind that action is fully transparent, effective, and efficient.

However, the president wasn't done with just that. In his statement, he urged Congress to get to work at greatly improving the current patent system in the United States by changing the way product injunctions are awarded and increase the overall transparency across the board, among several other recommendations.

"What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws," the President said, leading to the announcement of these latest rules.

Overall, patent trolls aren't very well-liked in the technology industry and for good reason. For several years, technology and software companies have said that the trolls generate revenue through the use of broad patents, and along the way, they stifle innovation.

It's a comment with which the White House and various organizations like The Internet Association, which tries to protect companies against patent trolls, agree.

"The Internet Association applauds the executive actions on high-tech patents announced by the President today, and we echo the administration's call for stronger legislation to put patent trolls out of business for good," The Internet Association wrote in an emailed statement.

"As the President said, patent trolls are nothing more than extortionists, abusing the court system to shake down innocent inventors, entrepreneurs and end users," the statement added.

In other IT news

Intel has launched its long-awaited lineup of Haswell processors this morning, and the company heralded the new 2-in-1 form-factor (PCs that can turn into tablets) in which many of these new chips will find themselves.

As one of the most widely trailed and hyped processor launches in many years, Haswell has a lot to live up to, but there are some important caveats as to whether it can rejuvenate a lacklustre PC market.

Attendees at the Computex show where the event took place could be forgiven for thinking this was 2012 all over again. Last year, it was all about Ivy Bridge and Windows 8 based devices while this year, the hype in Taipei is focused on Haswell and the upcoming Windows 8.1.

The question some commentators are asking is-- if the predicted uptick in sales didnít work after Ivy Bridge/Win8, whatís different this time around?

Well, we've done some looking around into Haswell, and the 22nm Tri-Gate chips are touted as offering 50 percent more battery life for notebooks than Ivy Bridge and even double the graphics performance, with power consumption as low as 6 Watts-- the biggest ďgenerational leapĒ in Intelís history, according to some observers.

Source: QA Internet and IT Security.

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