Wednesday’s Women in Infosec: Kristina Birk

Published July 12, 2017 by 2 min read

This month’s profiled woman in information security is Kristina Birk. Ms. Birk has been working with technology since 19*cough-cough*, spending the bulk of her career in IT operations and architecture. After stints at General Dynamics and CSC, Ms. Birk joined Duo Security in 2013 as the first (but no longer only!) woman in the Engineering group.

Reciprocity: If you had to choose one event that led you to work in information security, what would it be and why?

Kristina Birk: Luck and circumstance – really. I was relocating from California to Michigan and had a few job offers from companies in very different verticals. I wound up choosing the government contractor because it sounded interesting. I was coming from an aerospace company that had handled government contracts in the past and heard some stories from long-time engineers that made me think I’d enjoy it. From there, it was just a hop into managing servers and services on secure networks.

Reciprocity: Why do you like working in the information security environment?

Kristina Birk: Infosec is unique in that it’s one of the few spaces where you see wild creativity mixed with total logic in a landscape that’s constantly evolving. I always feel like there’s something more to learn.

Reciprocity: If a n00b to the infosec world asked you for a piece of advice, what would it be?

Kristina Birk: Don’t be afraid to experiment, but make sure you have a safety net (e.g. a support/maintenance contract, a trusted advisor or mentor, a what-if option in your script, etc.).

Reciprocity: What is the most important issue facing professionals in the information security landscape today? Why?

Kristina Birk: It seems like the easiest way to grab attention is to try to alarm people into listening but that just confuses or scares consumers. We should focus on helping them understand and address an issue without hype not just generate FUD and leave people to wonder what their next steps should be. Nobody can fix what they don’t understand.

Reciprocity: What is the most important issue facing consumers in the information security landscape today? Why?

Kristina Birk: I think consumers have two fundamental issues. The first is understanding that information security affects *everyone*. It’s not just an issue for large enterprises, especially when those enterprises are the retailers, banks, hospitals, and government agencies that hold your individual information.

The second is figuring out whom to trust. There are a lot of sources out there ready to give you advice but how can the average user with little industry knowledge suss out quality information?

Reciprocity: What are your three “guilty pleasures” that have nothing to do with information security?

Kristina Birk: I like cooking – especially baking – reading actual printed books, and wrangling my small human (which probably takes up most of my time).

Reciprocity: What’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation and why?

Kristina Birk: There are so many well-done adaptations out there but the ones I’ve enjoyed most recently (if I can expand the question to include TV) are the series adaptations of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” and Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” – coincidentally both on Starz. They’ve translated the stories to the screen really well, and where they’ve made changes for the most part they’ve been done with respect and helped enhance the source material.

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