Who do you serve? Who do you protect?

J.M. Porup
Jan 7 · 2 min read

A personal reflection on completing my master's degree in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is fun. It’s also lucrative. The joy of flexing your technical muscles — and getting paid well — can feel irresistible.

But cybersecurity is also inherently political. Who has power, and who does not. Cybersecurity work can defend freedom, or it can impose tyranny.

Who do you serve? Who do you protect?

At every step of our careers, who we work for, the systems we build, the systems we defend, we must ask ourselves these questions.

Because we are not observers. We are players. Our actions have consequences. The answers you give to these two questions affect all of society. The future of democracy. Our Constitution. The Bill of Rights.

Who do you serve? Who do you protect?

Do you go work for NSO Group, a mercenary outfit that helps dictatorships identify, hack, disappear, torture and murder jornalists, including Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?

Do you go work for the CIA, an agency that overthrows democratically-elected governments around the world so that mining companies can extract natural resources on the cheap — causing suffering for millions of innocent people?

Or do you go work for a hospital protecting patients from malware? Or a university protecting academics and students? or for an airline protecting passengers from both malware and targeted attacks? Or defending a water treatment plant, or the energy grid?

Who do you serve? Who do you protect?

Cybersecurity is political to the core. No decision you make in your career is without political consequences.

Do not play the ostrich, put your head in the sand. Take your joy and harness it to the greater good.

The internet, once heralded as the greatest tool for democracy and freedom of expression ever built, has proven to be rather the greatest tool for tyranny and oppression the human race has yet invented.

Working in cybersecurity, you must ask yourself: What are you securing? For whom? From what?

Who do you serve? Who do you protect?

J.M. Porup is a cybersecurity && national security reporter. He holds a Master’s in Information and Cybersecurity (MICS) degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

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