When more than 150 hackers descend on the Waikato next month for the final competition of the University of Waikato’s Cyber Security Challenge 2021, one young Hamilton-based entrepreneur will be there to cheer them on and encourage them towards a career in cybersecurity.
Ankita Dhakar, Managing Director of Hamilton-based SecurityLit, who established her business just 18 months ago, is passionate about making cybersecurity easy for businesses big or small and positioning cybersecurity as a rewarding job.
After moving to New Zealand from India in 2015 Ankita saw a gap in the market to provide organisations with affordable cybersecurity services. Since then, she’s attracted nine team members – based in New Zealand, Hungary and India – who support businesses all around the world.
SecurityLit focuses on vulnerability assessment and penetration testing for mobile, web and network applications. Ankita’s team has extensive experience in testing and finding vulnerabilities in large corporate networks and systems and help companies fight cyber-attacks.
“The idea is that everyone in cyberspace – big or small – can operate confidently and securely. A lot of small businesses don’t have a budget for IT security, so I wanted to start educating small businesses and start-ups about cyber security threats and how they can protect themselves as they are at big risk,” says Ankita.
Ankita says New Zealand is facing a “cyber-pandemic” because of COVID-19, with more businesses at risk following the increase in cloud computing and mobile technology use.
With 97 percent of businesses in New Zealand small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and news that cyber-attacks reached a record high in 2020, statistics show 43 percent of cyber-attacks target SMEs. This not only results in financial loss to businesses, but also damages a company’s reputation and impacts the sector that makes a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy. Ankita is driven to change this.
“We simplify cybersecurity for businesses and look at where their gaps are and help them become hole-proof. There’s a lot to be done in this space – cybersecurity isn’t a technology problem, it’s a human one. To compete against the army of hackers we need to build an army of good ethical hackers. So how do we build that army? By promoting cybersecurity awareness in the community, by educating people and by encouraging more people to join this sector.”
Ankita, who is a finalist in the entrepreneur category of the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA), with the winners set to be announced on 8 July, has recently appointed two interns at SecurityLit as part of her drive to encourage more people to consider cybersecurity as a career path.
“If people choose a career in cybersecurity they are contributing to society. I want more people to join the cyber security industry and help SMEs in New Zealand as there is a serious skill shortage in this industry. It’s a rewarding career,” says Ankita.
Ankita moved to New Zealand when she was just 22, and while studying towards her degree in business administration and management, she worked part time as a retail assistant at Number One Shoes in Auckland before working in a variety of office and administration roles.
“When I moved to New Zealand, I knew no-one, I was driven and determined to start my own business. I moved to Hamilton as I wanted to collaborate with the University of Waikato, which was the first university in New Zealand to provide a Masters Degree in Cyber Security. I didn’t have many connections when I first arrived, but I’ve developed them, and taken on some local clients, as well as aligned myself with groups in the community that I feel passionate about supporting.”
Backing the University of Waikato’s Cyber Security Challenge 2021 (NZCSC’21) as a Platinum Sponsor is another way for Ankita and her team to give back to the community.
SecurityLit has designed challenges for the hackathon’s Round 0 and Round 1 for high school students, tertiary students and industry members from across New Zealand. The competition is taking place this month and the final two rounds (rounds 1 and 2) will take place at Waikato University on 17 July.
“I’ve come a long way in six years. I’ve gone from new arrival in New Zealand to student and shoe salesperson to business owner. I’ve learnt so much and the people of this country have been so good to me,” says Ankita.
“Now I am delighted to be able to give back by supporting local businesses and by getting involved in this exciting challenge at the University of Waikato – giving back to the Waikato community is the least I can do. It is my dream to see Waikato become the Silicon Valley of New Zealand and I am working hard towards my dream.”