February 15, 2021
Due to well-publicized hacking events, consumers are becoming more aware of the crucial importance of cybersecurity. Consumers around the world are beginning to question how safe their vehicles are from a remote attack. The upcoming United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) regulation and ISO 21434 standard will force every OEM and electronics system provider to consider cybersecurity as part of the product development process. In this environment, early adopters of innovative cybersecurity measures can assume a meaningful competitive edge.
Dr. Yi (Estelle) Wang, the team lead of the Security & Privacy Competence Center (SCC) in Singapore for Continental Automotive Singapore, was recently named one of the Top 20 Women in Cybersecurity Singapore. Continental, a long-time Ansys customer, develops pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. From providing security in the automotive industry to managing her work-life balance and mentoring women in technology, Wang has made a significant impact in the cybersecurity world. Ansys sat down with her to discuss her thoughts on the subject and how diversity can help enhance the industry.
Dr. Wang’s passion for technology began almost by accident.
Growing up, Wang would take the occasional study break to play games on her Atari, a console that was revolutionary at the time.
Like other Atari fans, Wang quickly discovered that leveling up required a fair amount of troubleshooting. That piqued her interest, not just in gaming technology, but in computers in general. By the time she was in high school, her hobby had become a career path. She began studying coding on her own, focusing on C++, the general-purpose language created in 1985.
Before long, Wang decided to major in computer science and technology at Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi’an Shaanxi, China. She earned her master’s degree in computer architecture at the same school, working on integer part design of a 32-bit microprocessor.
But it wasn’t until she began her Ph.D. work at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University that she shifted her attention to cryptography, which allowed her to add her talent in math to the mix. Cryptography is the study of secure communications techniques that allow only the sender and intended recipient of a message to view its contents. Mathematical algorithms shuffle bits of data so only authorized users can unshuffle them and access the original information.
In her current role, Wang is responsible for cybersecurity regulations and standardization in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region of Singapore, China, Japan and Korea for Continental. In addition to her responsibilities at Continental, she holds eight patents, has presented 45 technical papers, is an associate editor for Transactions on Circuit and System II (TCAS II)— and serves on many Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) committees. If that is not impressive enough, she is also a wife and mother to two children, ages 12 and 4.
“Before we can enjoy new technology, we have to make sure we have in-depth security protection,” Wang said.
Engineering teams are now responsible for designing electronics systems that are safe against these kinds of sophisticated attacks. Already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of digital components and the complexity of system-level architectures, engineers are now charged with identifying and addressing every possible vulnerability. They need to model the entire electronics architecture — including every interface, control and connection — to ensure that the vehicle and its systems will be protected from malicious hacking attempts.
Wang describes the key to automotive cybersecurity success as “security by design and privacy by default.”
To guarantee that engineers are doing an adequate job, a new ISO standard is being developed for system-level security. ISO 21434 will ensure that engineers have arrived at a secure electronics architecture — and have documented all their modeling and verification activities.
How will organizations develop talented teams to ensure the ISO 21434 standard is met? There is a great need for more cybersecurity professionals.
Wang places priority on attracting more women to the cybersecurity field and empowering them to be successful in their career. “The opportunities are enormous,” Wang said. “In Singapore, we’re really trying to promote women in technology and, more specifically, in the cybersecurity domain.”
Wang’s cybersecurity work was recently recognized by the Women in Security & Resilience Alliance (WISECRA), a global network of women in security and resilience groups, which named her one of the top 20 women in her field in Singapore.
“Aside from public acknowledgment of achievements, awards like this are important for another reason,” Wang said. “They serve to increase awareness of cybersecurity as a robust field in which women can excel — an area where they have traditionally been underrepresented.”
Globally, about one-quarter (24%) of all cybersecurity experts are women, according to Security Magazine. And while that’s more than double the number compared to just three years ago, it suggests there’s still substantial room for growth, especially considering that women comprise nearly half the workforce in general.
Most industries these days rely on technology to function, and thus have cybersecurity needs. There are numerous initiatives that aim to get women more involved. For example, Wang believes mentorship provides an opportunity for feedback and continuous development. As a mentor — and as someone who is mentored herself — she encourages the use of coaching and guidance.
The demand for knowledgeable cybersecurity professionals is high. The types of potential cyberattacks are so broad that increasing diversity in cybersecurity would help elevate the industry, bring different perspectives to the table, and provide countless learning and growth opportunities.