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What cybersecurity professionals could learn from nature to build a more resilient career
By Catherine Kozak
Minuscule fruit flies have been doing their thing for 40 million years, somehow managing for millennia in southern Africa on a diet of marula fruit. After a fateful meetup about 10,000 years ago with multiple-fruit-loving humans, the insect promptly started evolving to the non-fussy generalist we know today.
“Their offspring then colonized the world,” Marcus Stensmyr, senior lecturer at Lund University in Sweden, says in a 2018 news statement about his research. “It’s actually quite awesome.”
Although the humble fruit fly may not be awe-inspiring beyond the science laboratory, its very existence offers a valuable lesson on how to build a resilient cybersecurity career: Diversify. Seize opportunities. Adapt. Evolve. Have a back-up plan.
Faced with the multiple shocks of 2019-2020—the political divide, the pandemic, nations’ reckonings with race and gender, the economic shutdown, not to mention a series of raging wildfires and vicious storms—it would behoove cybersecurity professionals to remember that we’re all subject to the same internal and external environmental forces. Unless you’re a crocodile, staying put and doing the same thing when under duress is rarely rewarded by nature.
There’s a reason for the fruit fly’s endurance. For example, the Drosophila melanogaster, with a brain the size of a poppy seed, has evolved into a winter and summer version of itself. The tiny fruit flies even have complex courtship rituals that rival species one thousand times their size.
Jason Bertram, Theoretical Biology Fellow at the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University, has spent considerable time constructing models that illustrate how complex biological systems interact with and respond to their environments—and change them.
Of course, he has studied generations of fruit flies, a species that has contributed immeasurably to understanding cellular mechanisms and genetic variation in evolution and which go through their entire lifecycle in a matter of weeks.
“For example, evolutionary biologists have set up fruit fly populations in a wind tunnel,” he says in an email interview, “and they have evolved to fly more than 10 times faster than even the fastest fly we would measure in a natural population without new mutations contributing.”
Bertram, who himself has gone through multiple evolutions with an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Cape Town, a master’s degree in physics at Australian National University (ANU) and a doctorate in biology from ANU, became fascinated with collective behavior while studying the physics of plasma, a population of charged particles.
Switching to ecology, his focus was broadened to looking at how organisms adapt to, and evolve as a result of, environmental change—how quickly and by what means? Would those adaptations, in turn, shift the surrounding ecosystem? In addition to his primary focus on adaptive evolution and rapid adaptation, Bertram is now studying how human-caused climate change differs from any previous environmental change Earth has experienced.
Read the rest of this article in the November/December 2020 issue of InfoSecurity Professional Magazine .
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