The SECRC Advisory Group are professionals that come from a diverse range of industries and play a key role in providing guidance, advice, and support around the initiatives and work the SECRC undertakes.
To celebrate and recognise each of the members of the Advisory Group, we have launched a brand new ‘Meet our AG’ blog series, starting with Michala Liavaag.
Meet Michala Liavaag, Founder of Cybility Consulting and a CISO Advisor that demystifies cybersecurity and helps organisations to build and maintain trust in the security of their services.
What is your role?
When working with clients I am a CISO advisor, vCISO and cybersecurity consultant. When not, I’m a managing director wearing all the hats that many small business owners will be all too familiar with! I’m also the host of my own podcast and YouTube channel ‘Cybility Savvy’ which is the easiest way to go from cyber confused to cyber-savvy.
What’s something an outsider wouldn’t know about your industry?
Cybersecurity isn’t all about technology and programming or hacking skills. There is demand for professionals coming from the humanities that can apply their skills in areas such as governance, risk, compliance, audit, training, and so on.
What originally got you interested in your current field of work?
My background is in classical music, IT, Project Management and Service transformation. After some time out for health reasons; when I returned to the world of work, I wanted something more challenging than IT support. In conversation with management, they shared that they had an open opportunity for ‘data classification’. I politely refused thinking it sounded incredibly boring.
The head of corporate services explained their predicament trying to hire into the role and persuaded me by selling it as ‘looking after people's data and helping keep it secure’. When he added that I could make the role my own that swung it for me; I’m forever grateful that they took a chance on me.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Take care of your mental health. Work your contracted hours; you can’t protect anyone if you’re exhausted or ill.
Who or what inspires you in your career?
Michelle and Barack Obama are examples of how we can achieve amazing things no matter our humble beginnings. They have conducted themselves with such grace and poise both throughout the presidency and beyond; I truly believe that our world is a lot brighter with them in it.
Diane Abbott, a labour politician in the UK, has paved the way for women of colour in UK politics. Although I don’t agree with everything she says; her staying power, despite the overt racism and attacks over the years, is remarkable. To me, she is the living embodiment of resilience.
How did you become a part of the SECRC?
A fellow cybersecurity consultant recommended that I sign up as a member. It wasn’t long before I featured as a guest on a Cyber Inside Out podcast episode focused on the charity sector. Chris White invited me to join the advisory group so here I am!
What’s your favourite way to spend a day off?
My biggest hobby is hacking. It’s so trivial to get into many company systems. I can spend hours sifting through all the data that I shouldn’t have access to before selling it to the highest bidder. You’ll be relieved to know that the only bit of this that is true is it being trivial to get into many company systems. With my strong ethics I’d be a rubbish cybercriminal!
Have you ever met anyone famous?
I once met HeMan of Castle Gray Skull and got to ride on Battle Cat; it was awesome.
Do you have any phobias?
Yes, I suffer from JimCareyphobia. Have you seen the things he can do with his face and body? Terrifying!
What's the phone app you use most?
TikTok; love a good short video. (Not true, I’ve never installed it and don’t intend to!)
If you could live in a movie, which one would it be and why?
The Truman Show. Who wouldn’t want to be under that level of surveillance their whole life? Oh, wait a minute…looks at Alexa in the corner.
What’s something that you are proud of?
Being retweeted by Jim Carey.
What’s something you’re excited about right now?
Speaking seriously for a moment, it is good to see the change that has happened in the cybersecurity field in recent years. More organisations and people understand the importance of protecting their valuable data; and the recognition that to do so requires more focus on people and behaviour change. As a consultant, one of the ways we are doing this is by creating our own training, using principles of gamification. I’m very excited about combining my love of gaming with my work in cybersecurity which will help organisations to become cyber resilient and have a little fun doing it.
POSTSCRIPT: Generally speaking, minimise divulging any personal information online that you don’t want to be used against you, e.g., my answers could be used to tailor a phishing email. For what you do put out there, be mindful that communications referring to it may not be what they seem. When sites ask for personal information that don’t really need it – make something up, I do! Stay vigilant!
The Cyber Resilience Centre for the South East exists to support sole traders, micro-businesses and SMEs across the region. We offer free membership which will inform you of the current threats gathered by policing intelligence, as well as providing simple steps to take to reduce your vulnerability to an attack. We also offer an opportunity to speak to our Head of Cyber and Innovation regarding your cyber security and concerns.