Most honorees in the Women in IT Security program are nominated by a single individual. In the case of Jennifer Lyn Walker, director of cyber defense at Gate 15, it was a team of colleagues who banded together to ensure she was recognized for her many good deeds.
Some people don’t like to be the center of attention or occupy the spotlight. Walker, her nominators contend, dedicates so much of her time fighting on behalf of other unsung groups and people that she doesn’t have the time — or the temperament — to celebrate herself.
“She’s so humble that she doesn’t recognize her own accomplishments its only when somebody says ‘hey I really appreciated your input into XYZ’, she’s taken aback,” said Mayya Saab, executive director of the Faith-based Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
Walker has nearly two decades of experience in the cybersecurity realm, and uses much of that knowledge to help coordinate the cyber defenses of other communities. Her focus is on critical infrastructure, in particular working for information sharing organizations for communities or industries — like the water sector, Native tribes and religious organizations — that are often overlooked and outgunned when it comes to expertise and resources around digital threats.
Her colleagues believe that’s precisely why Walker, who has expertise in malware analysis, threat assessments, threat intelligence, cybersecurity awareness and HIPAA compliance, gravitates towards these groups in the first place. Saab credits her with helping to raise the profile of organizations like hers, connecting them to the rest of the cybersecurity community and helping elevate them as recognized leaders in their space.
“Jen advocates strongly for underserved and underrecognized communities, be they smaller water utilities that don’t have funding and have to do so much, or tribes that are typically marginalized, underserved communities,” said Saab. “The faith-based sector [has] megachurches but also very many houses of worship that serve 50-100 congregants per week…and she is such a strong advocate because they are not advocating for themselves. They don’t know how loud they need to be to be heard, but Jen speaks up for other communities.”
Walker helped develop a set of 15 security fundamentals for water utilities, an underlooked but critical sector that U.S. cyber officials routinely fret over due to its lack of cyber maturity.
Another example of her focus on forgotten communities: Walker hosts a podcast, "The Cybersecurity Evangelist," that she has used to produce informative, non-judgmental cybersecurity advice to groups like the elderly who may have little to no technical knowledge but who like all of us must rely on safe and secure computers, phones and the digital world.
Most conversations in cybersecurity happen at a level that is inscrutable to this group, and that alone made them worthy of attention and empathy to Walker.
“Those of us who grew up with technology or came of age with technology, we take things for granted. She spoke to folks in a simple manner, she was gentle and not at all assuming… it was the first time I heard that tone, that approach when you’re talking about cybersecurity with older adults,” said Saab.