Liz Fraumann found her way into an IT focus more than a decade ago and hasn’t looked back since. Along the way, she’s helped make cyber security a priority in San Diego and fostered a love of the field in countless students thanks to programs like the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge and SOeC Cyber Boot Camp.
Fraumann is the executive director of the Securing Our eCity Foundation, an organization that was formally incorporated in 2011 to increase cyber security awareness, education, and prepredness in the San Diego region by focusing on the human element in education and outreach. Prior to this time the program was an initiative fostered by ESET North America.
It’s that human element where Fraumann really shines. She has a background in marketing and knows the importance of telling a good story to get a message across. During the course of her time at Securing our eCity, she’s spoken to elementary school students, senior citizens, and the business community – effectively, everyone.
“What I’ve found over the years is that people really want to talk about their issues,” Fraumann said. “I always try to talk about how cyber security impacts everyone and how it relates to their specific areas of concern.”
For example, online school grading systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks, something most teachers and students don’t think about when entering student data in them. And, parents might not realize that giving their phone to a toddler could lead to disastrous consequences if it’s not secured correctly.
When it comes to cyber competitions, Fraumann is a big believer in the concept of gamification and putting cyber activities on the same level as other sports. In fact, everyone who participated in the Securing our eCity Cyber Boot Camp this year received a cyber letterman’s jacket — just like a jock would receive on the high school sports team.
She’s also worked with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America to add a cyber security patch as a credential for scouts to earn. These efforts are essential to making cyber competitions and cybers ecurity education part of the mainstream and available to all students, not just the stereotypical STEM focused student or students from affluent backgrounds.
“Cyber security is an issue that touches all of us. Organizations like ours can become part of the the solution,” Fraumann said. “When you are able to break down those barriers, it’s amazing to watch the students and the sense of pride they have.”
Alan Watkins was the IT Operations and Security Manager for the City of San Diego when Securing our eCity was formed. He met Fraumann in 2010 and was immediately taken by Fraumann’s understanding of cyber security and her ability to make the public aware of its potential implications.
“Although some of her team members appeared to be sales oriented, I could tell Liz was more of a visionary and passionate about the concept of increasing awareness of cyber security for individuals, families, and businesses,” Watkins said.
Over the years of working with her, Watkins saw that enthusiasm continue to grow. While many people tend to focus on the scary aspects of cyber security, Fraumann tends to take a more encouraging tone.
“I see a passion in Liz for both cyber and kids – helping them see their own potential and directing them into healthy and legal avenues for cyber rather than saying ‘beware of the dark side,’” Watkins said. “I would like to think that all the kids she has encouraged over the last several years would look to her as their cyber hero for providing them with the opportunity to explore the field of cyber security in an environment of fun competition.”
Emily Le is one of those students Fraumann has inspired. They met when Le was a student at Mira Mesa Senior High School participating in cyber boot camp. Le heard Fraumann give a presentation on professional development and one of the things that stuck out to her was the advice never to be afraid to ask for opportunities.
Le took that advice to heart and approached Fraumann after the presentation to ask for an internship. Fraumann said yes and spent two summers working for Securing our eCity. She’s now attending UC San Diego and said the experience with Fraumann provided the training and the confidence she needed to obtain internships at NASA and Northrop Grumman.
“When you talk to her you get super excited about cyber security,” Le said. “When I was working for her I asked if she planned on retiring and she said she wouldn’t because it was her passion.”
While Fraumann’s work over the past decade have been successful, she knows it’s not enough. She sees an opportunity to take the cyber cup model nationwide and have California serve as a model for other states on how to conduct cyber security training and education programs.
“We need to have some things that reach all the way into primary grades,” she said. “I would love to take our program and have it nationally accepted in all schools and then take it anywhere in the world it’s willing to go.”