On June 14, 2019, Taylor Swift posted a seemingly random string of text to her social media accounts: gxgjxkhdkdkydkhdkhfjvjfj!!!
She had just released a new music video, so to the untrained eye, it would seem that she was evoking an excited keyboard-smash. But Swifties knew better.
Years later, Twitter users pointed out that typing gxgjxkhdkdkydkhdkhfjvjfj!!! into YouTube pulls up another Taylor Swift music video, “The Man,” which came out nearly a year after the initial social post.
It’s a typical, long-time-coming Easter Egg, a tradition that seasoned Swifties know All Too Well. Taylor may be the Mastermind behind the clues, but her fans’ determination, critical thinking, and unparalleled passion deserve more credit. These skills also happen to apply to information security (infosec) and cyber threat intelligence and research.
Here are 13 reasons why Swifties should consider a career in cybersecurity:
1. You like a good mystery.
Swifties are investigators by nature, and threat actors almost always leave a trail of clues when they break into a system.
2. You have great attention to detail.
As Taylor releases re-recorded versions of each of her studio albums, fans have been noting every slight change in melody and production. Tracking file and registry key modifications is a key threat detection strategy.
3. You already know how to do open source research.
One Swiftie recently used image metadata to determine that the photo on the Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) cover was shot the same week that she spoke at NYU’s commencement ceremony.
Swifties look out for each other from all across the world, particularly when it comes to getting face-value tickets in the hands of fans instead of scalpers.
6. You know how to troubleshoot.
When Ticketmaster crashes, You Need to Calm Down, and reload it in a different browser.
7. You’ve got fast fingers.
When the presale starts, you have to be quick to click. Speedy decision-making—and knowing when to Speak Now—is also a central tenet of effective incident response.
8. Remote work is ideal for waiting in a Ticketmaster queue.
Many security companies, including Red Canary, offer full-time remote or flexible work-from-home policies, meaning you can blast your favorite Taylor album without headphones.
9. Like Taylor, you’re a collaborator.
Taylor has performed and recorded with dozens of other artists, from fellow superstars like Ed Sheeran to rising songwriters like Phoebe Bridgers. Like most hard things, security is a team effort.
10. You can adapt to change.
From country to pop to folk and back again, Taylor’s not one to stand still for too long. From network to endpoint to cloud, the cybersecurity industry does its own genre blending, evolving with advances in technology.
11. It makes for some good stories.
For most of the nuances of life, Taylor’s lyric “this ain’t a fairy tale,” is a useful reminder. But infosec is the rare industry with clearcut heroes and villains. (Anyone with unauthorized access to your system is a bad guy…let’s call a red teamer an Anti Hero.)
12. You’re not on your own, kid.
There’s already a well-established Swiftie fandom within the infosec community, exemplified by the popular SwiftonSecurity Twitter account devoted to the intersection of Swiftology and cybersecurity.
13. We need you.
While Swifties come in all shapes and genders, her fandom is run on feminine power. The bathroom lines at the Eras Tour are a direct inverse to the bathroom lines at DEF CON and Black Hat. According to a report from Cybersecurity Ventures, women held only 25% of cybersecurity jobs in 2022. We can do better.
Let me end with a little Love Story:
Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago, I was an English major with zero job prospects. For most of my life, I considered myself a humanities person, with only “soft skills” to offer. After a few years of luck, networking, and risk taking, I somehow ended up with a successful career in a highly technical field. Sure, I leveraged my known strengths, but I also opened myself up to learn new skills, even if it felt Trecherous at first. Like Taylor has done so many times, I reinvented myself, defying expectations. My Infosec Era has only just begun.
I didn’t do it alone. Last year I competed for and eventually received Women in Cybersecurity’s Security Training Scholarship, which consisted of a Capture the Flag competition, CyberStart game, and eventually three SANS courses with accompanying GIAC certifications. Alongside more than 60 other women from all over the world, I’ve analyzed malware, killed malicious programs from the command line, and scoured through event logs for tell-tale lines of code.
Applications for this year’s cohort will be open soon, and I strongly encourage women or non-binary folks who are looking for a career change–or even just to learn something new—to apply. Follow WiCys on Twitter and LinkedIn for more training and networking opportunities.
I recently tried putting gxgjxkhdkdkydkhdkhfjvjfj!!! into my favorite decoding tool, CyberChef, and came up dry. Knowing Taylor, there’s likely more than one meaning to this string, and knowing her fans, it will eventually come to light. I hope you’ll join me in this pursuit and in this industry, headfirst, Fearless.
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