Women in IT Security: 10 Power Players
Women in IT Security: 10 Power Players

These 10 women were selected for their longstanding contributions to the IT security space. As veterans in the field, they've served as exemplary women taking on leadership roles in the community. We celebrate by offering their stories as well as testimonials from colleagues who have been inspired by them.

Heather Adkins, director, information security, Google

In 2006, Heather Adkins, a founding member of the Google Security Team, wrote on the company's blog: “We've learned that when security is done right, it's done as a community.”

Although she credits the Google community for the company's successful security, Adkins, now the company's director of information security, more or less created the department on her own at age 25, before the department even existed. In May, she celebrated her 13th year with the company.  

Prior to her work at Google, Adkins attended Humboldt State University, initially to study marine biology. While there, however, she found herself interested in the UNIX operating system.

She eventually got a job at Excite.com, a previously popular search engine, without finishing college. She attributed this to the lack of available education on the subject in formal institutions. She told one Silicon Valley-based publication that she and other were drawn to the field and unable to find it taught in schools. “For a young woman, it wasn't really available,” she told Silicon Valley Business Journal. “In the maths and sciences, there's a very small number of women and even fewer that have chosen security. The Facebook generation is maybe going to be more attuned to this, since it's right in front of your face. It will hopefully help girls understand this is an area of concern and a field of study or at least have an option to do it.”

On the security side, Adkins pronounced in 2013 that: “Passwords are dead,” and that they were “done at Google.” At the time, she mentioned Google's use of two-factor authentication and its hunt to find a password alternative, such as tokens.

Beyond her strong password stance, she stands by patching, as she told The Economist in 2014 that each month she holds a “monthly patch day,” to update all the software running on her electronic devices at home. – AC

Photo by Brandon Downey