Over the course of human existence, the concept of money has seen many changes. We once traded in goods and then gold and then paper notes. Today we see money being exchanged with the tap of a card or through our mobile phones.

Lin Wanzi, Country Information and Cybersecurity Risk Manager, Standard Chartered Bank Singapore is responsible for helping secure the evolving nature of financial transactions. She shares the role of cybersecurity teams in acting as “human firewalls” and discusses how cybersecurity appears mysterious.

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

As the Country Information and Cybersecurity Risk Manager at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore (SCB), I look after the security risk posture of Singapore within the bank, by ensuring that cybersecurity risks are proactively managed, and effectively controlled with mitigating and remediation measures, in line with the bank’s policies and regulatory requirements. As part of my role, I also drive cybersecurity awareness to help improve understanding of cyber risks and threats, reinforcing that everyone plays an important role as human firewalls.

Over the years, human behaviour has evolved to keep up with technological advancements. Today, we’re so used to a culture of convenience with online shopping and online banking – from real-time digital money transfers, automated transfers and recurring payments. But not too long ago, our parents would go to the bank to update their passbooks, and manually deposit or withdraw money. Or a generation ago, it’s common to hear how people would keep their savings in biscuit tins under the bed.

While today’s modern culture of convenience has made life more seamless for the end-consumer, businesses must ensure customer privacy and data is handled in the most secure manner. Despite how our IT systems are built in a robust manner with various security controls in place, we cannot discount the human factor in upholding the safety of cyberspace. This is why we must stay vigilant 24/7, keep up with new cybersecurity risks and threats, and continually protect our digital footprint.

What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity used to be a big word for a non-technical person. It was also a mysterious concept portrayed in espionage movies – hackers cracking complicated encrypted passwords, breaking into top secret files and taking over all the computers in a room remotely – I would think, “Wow, how did they do that? Is that even possible?”

When a role in SCB’s Cybersecurity team opened up, I was thankful for the opportunity to take on this new challenge. It was a very steep learning curve for me, transiting from an Operations Project Management to Cybersecurity. However, the support and guidance from my management and colleagues made it possible – I learnt a lot through on-the-job training and internal courses. Today, I am honoured to be a proud member of SCB’s cybersecurity team.

What has been the most impactful contribution of your career?

Once, I was on the other side of being unable to relate to cybersecurity issues that seem so remote, unaware of the existing controls in place for consumer protection, or how easily our devices or data can be compromised.

Understanding the holistic framework and being part of the cybersecurity arena, enables me to contribute both on a professional and personal level. Cybersecurity is an area of increasing importance, where every emerging technology brings in different risks and threats. Continual awareness is a must to ensure humans remain our best firewall.

Hence, the most impactful contribution of my career, is creating more cybersecurity awareness among fellow colleagues and friends in a layman manner. I am thankful to help educate them better about cybersecurity risks and threats, in order to protect themselves online.

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

We live in interesting times today, where the COVID-19 situation has amplified many of life’s challenges. On a personal front, I would like to take up meditation to increase mindfulness and manage stress better. On the professional front, I would like to deepen my knowledge of specialised domain areas in the evolving Cybersecurity landscape, such as Penetration Testing and Third Party Security Assessments.

Who or what inspired you this year, and why?

Security starts with protecting yourself, your family and your loved ones. What inspires me the most, is knowing that I am contributing to the bigger cause of keeping everyone safe in this digitally connected world. The ability to share my knowledge and create cyber awareness for my family and friends, especially with the rise of COVID-19 related incidents, has definitely given me a big push.

Professionally, while acknowledging that change is the only constant, we need to constantly apply effective controls to counter emerging risks to safeguard ourselves. Every day brings new challenges that inspire me to ensure the safety of our domain, by having these cyber risks identified, assessed, mitigated and controlled effectively and efficiently.

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

First, you need to have the right attitude and mindset. FEAR can mean two things – you can either “Forget Everything And Run”, or “Face Everything And Rise”.

Second, I would advise on the importance of having good mentors who can provide good advice and ease your learning curve. These could be people within your organisation or outside.

In SCB, I am very thankful for an open culture of learning and supportive leaders who take an interest to mentor staff. I was lucky to have met several mentors who invested in my career progression and encouraged me to take on new challenges. For example, my former boss, Osman Faiz, encouraged my mid-career switch to Cybersecurity, and supported this with invaluable on-the-job training and learning resources.

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

Take that leap of faith – everything you want to achieve in life is waiting for you outside your comfort zone, but inside your effort zone!