Meet Margarita: The war scientist who became a cyber analyst

Meet Margarita: The war scientist who became a cyber analyst
2022-05-06 Paliscope

What do you do in your role as a cyber analyst?

“I maintain close customer contact, monitor the cyber threat landscape, conduct external surveillance at a global level, and provide consultancy services. Since the risks are ever present and increasing, we also work with a managed service where we monitor the cyber security of our customers’ supply chains as well as the supply chains of their suppliers—that is, we also assess third-party risk.

“I can’t say much for confidentiality reasons, but it is exciting and stimulating to work closely with our customers, understand the increasingly complex environments they operate in and to help them navigate the ever-changing threat landscape. We work with various automated tools and analyze risks by looking at, for example, Darknet. Then we communicate the risks that the customer faces and provide advice on how they can manage and minimize their exposure. Rather than giving our customers general advice, we tailor it to the specific challenges they face.

“My role is very exciting and diverse since the cyber threat landscape is constantly changing. You have to work fast, and often with short deadlines.”

“My team is young and consists of people with different skills who have studied in numerous fields, including systems science, public international law, peace studies and conflict studies, information security and leadership.”

Tell us about your team!

“I want to start by dispelling the myth that you must be a hacker or a programmer to work in cyber security. My team is young and consists of people with different skills who have studied in numerous fields, including systems science, public international law, peace studies and conflict studies, information security and leadership. As for myself, I studied war science. All perspectives make important contributions and provide a unique piece of the puzzle.”

So which piece of the puzzle do you contribute?

“The macro perspective, among others. As a war scientist, I can provide a geopolitical and geoeconomic analysis of cyber security, as well as insights into the underlying drivers of threat actors and how they use cyber operations as a means of power in cyberspace. Additionally, I can provide analysis on the impacts that the actions of such actors may have on a particular industry. Given my educational background in war studies, these are some of the perspectives I can contribute.”

What qualities do you need in your role?

“I need to be analytical, creative and intuitive. Digitization and technological development are occurring rapidly, and it’s important to stay one step ahead and not be afraid to think outside the box when predicting the threat actors’ next steps.”

“We help companies operate safely in cyberspace, which also contributes positively to Sweden’s national security. This, in turn, benefits Sweden at the geopolitical level as well.”

What drives you?

“I think that those of us who are just starting out in our careers are ambitious and have an enormous drive to help and contribute to society with the backgrounds and experiences we possess. This is a common goal on my team. Looking at things more broadly, cyber security is concerned with societal security. We help companies operate safely in cyberspace, which also contributes positively to Sweden’s national security. This, in turn, benefits Sweden at the geopolitical level as well. In addition, we often see that our customers train their staff who, in turn, inform and share that knowledge with their friends and family. The more we all know about cybersecurity, the more resilient we become as a society.”

What do you dream of doing in the future?

“I believe in constant development and want to develop further as an analyst. One dream of mine is to work with cyber awareness in addition to my role as an analyst. I believe I can achieve this by conducting training courses and lectures, and by helping to produce appropriate teaching materials for universities. I would also like to help young women obtain work in the cyber industry. I want to give back and help others discover the same opportunities that the Swedish Defense University (Försvarshögskolan) has given for me.”

Tell us about the path you took to where you are today!

“I was probably 16 years old when I became certain that I wanted to work with defense issues and societal security. My initial goal was to join the Armed Forces as a soldier. However, women were not being recruited as actively to the Armed Forces when I was younger, so I started looking into the option of attending university instead. That’s when I first discovered the Swedish Defense University. As soon as I understood that civilians could study there, I knew right away that this was what I was going to do.

“After completing several stand-alone courses in military history and command and control science, I then studied the Bachelor’s program on Counter Terrorism, Security and Intelligence with a specialization in politics and international relations, at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. After finishing my studies in Australia, I returned to Sweden to study the Master’s program in Politics, Security and War at the Swedish Defense University.”

How did you get into cybersecurity?

“In a course about European security, we had a guest lecturer named Sarah Backman. While she was talking about cybersecurity, something occurred to me—I felt that this was so incredibly important, how could I not know about it? There and then, I decided that this would be my field.”

So it just “clicked”?

“Yes, exactly, it did. Backman was very encouraging and advised us to make sure we network with or, at the very least, follow experts in the industry and learn from them. You can study a lot, but nothing beats sitting next to and shadowing someone who is active and capable in this area.

“That’s exactly what I did by participating in an internship at the Swedish Defense University’s Center for Asymmetric Threats and Terrorism Studies (CATS). During my time there, I learned a significant amount about cyber and influence operations, and was fortunate enough to have co-authored a report with my supervisor. The report was about the unspoken norms that can be deduced in nine states that had violated international agreements in cyberspace. I also received very helpful advice on what to consider in my Master’s thesis, which examined how the perception of cyber weapons and offensive cyber operations in the United States has changed over the last ten years. After I completed my last semester at the Swedish Defense University, I continued to work there over the summer as a research assistant, focusing on cyber security.

“After this, one of my supervisors from CATS contacted me and asked if I was interested in joining Paliscope as a cyber analyst.”

Quick facts about Margarita

Age: 32

Raised in: Stockholm, Sweden

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Counter Terrorism, Security and Intelligence with a specialization in politics and international relations from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia), and a Master’s Degree in Politics, Security and War with a specialization in War Studies from the Swedish Defense University.

Every day I read: Lots. Monitoring the outside world is definitely part of the role and a great interest of mine. The Record by Recorded Future is good.

Favorite food: Anything cooked over an open fire out in nature.

What is the most common question you get when you say you’re a cyber analyst?

People wonder what my background is, and are surprised that I have a degree in social science as opposed to a technical one.

Read the original interview by fhs.se (in Swedish) here.

Share this interview