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Housing scams inspire student cybersecurity club at U of G

Local chapter of American-based Women in Cybersecurity founded by Keertana Madhaven
Graduate student Keerthana Madhaven is the president of CyberGryph, a student cybersecurity club at the University of Guelph.

When Keerthana Madhaven arrived in Guelph to pursue a Masters of Computer Science degree specializing in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, she set about looking for somewhere to live. 

“When I arrived, I was looking for a rental. I noticed so many scams and people falling for scams, every week,” Madhaven said.

“So, I thought, 'ok, we need to improve the cybersecurity posture and educate people about cybersecurity.'"

As rent prices climb and vacancy rates fall, the scramble for students to find rentals has become increasingly competitive. Sadly, some will run into a scam if they are not careful.

After noticing the absence of a student cybersecurity club at the University of Guelph, Madhaven set out to start one herself.

CyberGryph was developed to encourage a growing sense of community, make cybersecurity more accessible to women and to create a safer and more secure online environment for everyone.

With support from Rozita Dara, a professor in the School of Computer Science at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, CyberGryph was born.

The new club is U of G’s chapter of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS), an American-based organization fostering international communities of women in cybersecurity through networking and professional development opportunities.

“We’ve just started and are now in the process of recruiting members. I hope by the end of March, everything will be up and running.,” Madhaven said.  

“I’ve had lots of messages from students and they are all from different disciplines like business and economics as well as graduate students from the MCTI (Master of Cybersecurity and Threat Intelligence) program at the University of Guelph. They are all interested in taking part.”

Madhavan, who is now the CyberGryph president, and Dara hope to begin hosting networking events, workshops, mentorship programs and talks showcasing cybersecurity at the university.

Creating a club isn’t new to Madhavan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Windsor, where she created a WiCyS chapter, the first in Canada. 

“I had already started a chapter at the University of Windsor, and we had a very successful two years. We ran different events and had over 150 members,” Madhaven said.

Madhaven says there are MCTI students and cybersecurity students who want to improve their technical skills in applying for jobs and internships.

“We hosted events and professional workshops for students to get into cybersecurity and for people who were already in cybersecurity, so they could improve their skills when applying for jobs.”

Whether by email or social media, Madhaven says it is important to know how cyber criminals attempt to access personal and financial information.

“Hackers are trying to target just regular human beings, apart from organizations, because they are more easily attackable,” Madhaven said.  

“From a cybersecurity perspective, we need to teach people about the zero-trust concept which is a concept in many larger companies to prevent cyber attacks. So, I want to build that zero-trust mindset for individuals here at the University of Guelph.”

Madhaven wants to inspire more women to enter into cybersecurity, and to help recruit, retain and advance women in the field.

“By 2025, there will be over 2.5 million unfilled jobs in cybersecurity. And there’s only 20 per cent representation from women in the field. So, I just want to let people know, especially women, that cybersecurity is for everyone, not just for technical people," she said.

Madhaven, 22, currently works for Bank of Canada in the Cybersecurity Dept. After her studies, she hopes to receive a full-time position.

"And I also want to begin a cybersecurity start-up at the University of Guelph that will offer support and training for students," Madhaven said.

CyberGryph is an inclusive organization and is open to all genders.

Madhaven says cybersecurity is not a niche.

“Every industry requires some type of cybersecurity knowledge, whether it’s technical or nontechnical. This is good for the future because this is what we are heading towards, it's all about cybersecurity and IT,” she said.

“We want to create a space for students to get to know each other and make connections. I just want to reach out to as many people as possible and create a community where we can all talk about cybersecurity.”

More information about the local chapter can be found here.


Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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