Women in Cyber: Keeping digital Estonia connected to the world

By Shirley Tay

Piret Urb, Director Of International Relations at Estonian Information System Authority shares how sharing information across borders builds more secure nations.

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success," said business tycoon Henry Ford. Working together is not just the recipe for success, but its also just the smart thing to do, says Piret Urb, Director Of International Relations at Estonian Information System Authority.

She shares how sharing information across borders coordinates best practices and keeps nations secure. Estonia is recognised for being one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world, and Urb discusses the international communities the country is involved in.

Tell us more about your role. How do you protect the digital realm and improve citizens’ lives?

I’m leading the international relations in the Authority that is responsible for maintaining and managing the core elements of the digital government of Estonia and in addition, we are responsible for ensuring the cyber security of the country. For us it’s important to talk to our partners - to national cyber security centres from all over the world, in order to exchange information and share best practises. No need to invent the wheel if there’s one already – it’s smarter to talk to each other. Cooperation between the governments is a key that brings value-add to the people and helps to maintain security in the countries’ network.

What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is forming an essential part of the security of state. Especially nowadays in the 21st century. Especially regarding the country as Estonia where everything is digital since 20 years. So Cybersecurity is the Security! I know and remember very well how difficult it was to restore the independence of my country. And it took very long. We must keep it firm now and it’s my pleasure to work hard for that.

What has been the most impactful project of your career?

Many interesting and challenging projects I contributed have played the role. For example: Estonia’s candidacy and luckily, thereafter, the membership to the UN Human Rights Council, everyday work there, and Estonia’s Chairmanship of the Freedom Online Coalition and the successful completion of the creation of the Tallinn Agenda on Freedom Online together with non-state actors, also to start working in the heart of cyber security and digital government of Estonia.

What challenges would you like to take on in the next year?

I hope the previous (hopefully previous) health crises situation enables us to make our job properly again as my work is very much related to travelling – good partners travelling to Estonia or vice versa. Everything cannot be discussed through virtual channels neither trustful relations to be created which is essential for us as cybersecurity is the cross-border issue. From the personal perspective I would like to go for a ski in the mountains, I haven’t done it for some years now, but I really used to like it.

Who or what inspired you this year, and why?

Intelligent lectures and discussions are very inspiring. The colleagues (my office and elsewhere), the President of the Republic – they were always there and present, visible and hard-working - having strength, amazing energy and often new ideas.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in cybersecurity?

Certainly to do everything to start with. The women can be more qualified in this field because they have to work twice as hard as men to get hired. In general I believe that if the person is very passionate about something then she or he is also very good professional.

If you could sum up your life motto in one sentence, what would it be?

There are many principles to keep in mind: do always to the others that you would like to receive back from them; if the situation looks impossible there’s still a way out – you’ll find it; do not be afraid to ask a question – you never seem stupid but just curious.