Sunday, February 28, 2016

Silvia Barrera, police: "I admire hackers and I’d like be like them"

Silvia Barrera. National Police Inspector and Technological Research Unity Section chief.


Silvia Barrera writes so good that it’s better she presents herself: “Although I’ve raised in Madrid, as soon as I could, when I was very young, I went out the capital. Yesterday was my 39th birthday (yes, 39) despite my child face, the experience (and also the grey hair) follow me and I can’t get away of it. I studied occupational therapy at the same way as 21 years ago university orientation committees did not exist the things weren’t clear. I always had present that helping other people makes me happy but I didn’t know how. I thought a grade focused in the human being knowledge could serve but it didn’t. I learnt a lot, I specialized on neurological pathologies but when I started to work on that, I realized it wasn’t my path”.

"That’s why I joined to the Air Force, a total change without fear, where I spent almost 5 years and from there I joined the Police. All my life working and studying until I passed the exam for Inspector. In all these years, I suffered personal and professional beats and in the end, I ended in the called BIT, 9 years ago and it was when I discovered the love of my live: Internet and its possibilities. A world where the knowledge never ends and where, you can also help other people."

 -  How do you get to be Inspector and technique section chief?

- Jajaja!  You become an Inspector studying until dying because I combined it with my policial work along 4 years until I passed the exam. I slept 3 daily hours and I didn’t know what was to enjoy a free day. On January 1st I woke up at 8 am to study, that was my life. The technique section chief was a necessary change. The previous chief left and I asked the position. I spent 5 years working on investigation and I needed, I wished, other motivation inside the cyberworld. I worked a lot and my boss trusted in me. It allowed me to keep learning and introduced me in a more technical world, in the inside, between hard drives and wires and it’s cool. Now I’m completely hooked and gratefull for the opportunity they gave me.

-You own a great merit because you highlighted in the police, where there aren’t many women and also in the cybersecurity world, where there is the same situation. How do you feel?

- I confess I don’t think if I highlight or not, I only use the opportunities I get giving the best of me. My merit is based on the continuum effort and patience. However, I like to think that, in “men” institutions like the ones I moved in so many years, there are colleagues and bosses who value you for your efforts and capabilities, independently of your gender. But it isn’t easy, believe me. Men aren’t the only barriers, there are also women.

-  How did you get in the cybersecurity world?

- By chance. Many years ago in the BIT, they were searching for good investigators with computing, Internet and english knowledge and they picked me. One thing is having computer knowledge and another one is what you find when working in this world. The network has its own rules, nothing to do with the conventional investigation. If you don’t love the cybersecurity world and you aren’t a patient person, you aren’t the right person for this job.

- And, what is different: how do you learn about cybersecurity?

- I made 1st of systems in the UNED but I left. Much obsolete information and learning programmation and making trees with Modula 2. Come on! I think, better by my own, self-taught, without exams and booksto follow. Reading, studying, listening, working, making mistakes during the investigations. 24 hours hooked in the network. And as much I learn, as much I want to keep learning.

-  Did somebody already explain you the hackers are good? :D

- I admire hackers and someday I’d like being like them. I need to work but sometimes I think I’m too old because I see boys with half of my age who are really computing genius and I get frustrated. But well, if I have to be hacker at 60, I’ll be xD.

- Have you ever had a problem in Internet (somebody infected you with a virus, an odd mail…)?

- Of course, a few, because I’m too curious and I have had some visitors, sometimes just for being reckless and others because I were where I shouldn’t be ;) I remember a few years ago when I didn’t know much about the matter and I was still thinking that with pressing the Enter and Esc keys the problems will solve themselves. I remember a familiar of mine who suffered an visitor entrance and I restored his computer by default. “Fixed”. He said me: “What have you done? You deleted me everything. I answered him: Didn’t you say your computer didn’t work well? Look now how faster it runs.

-  Which is the most interesting case your team has found in the social network? (if you can tell us…)

- There’s one I can’t tell you not for the interesting but the third service providers shame for not collaborating in bloody cases. The case I can tell you was the TV presenter Lara Siscar one, who suffered harassment for more than four years and she had to see how a person (already arrested for this facts) made a lot of Twitter profiles until he got Lara leaving social networks. He took away her freedom of expression and made a serious reputational damage to her. Luckily, a continuous harassment leaves a track behind and we could identify him.

- What the people don’t know about you is you're pretty active in an international level, you’re in different groups: Interpol, Europol, etc. Now they can’t hear us: Is it boring or not?

- I said it’s more hard than boring. Long, theoretical, in a different language, with people with different cultures and interests… I assist to coordination and strategical approach reunions which are really necessary but of course, I’m a very practical person. The adaptation was hard. Is other vision. But with time you get accustomed to this perspective. This meetings give you a lot because you meet and see colleagues from other countries who suffer cybercrime in the same way and with common problems what teaches you and open your eyes. My way of seeing and understanding Internet changed when I went outside. Sitting with China, Russia, USA, Germany and Iran people and making important contacts. All started to make sense.

- You’re a good speaker: close when you talk, your articles are interesting… Is the funniest thing of your cyberpolice work?

- I love teaching and writting but no, the funniest thing is going to Cons and cybersecurity events, talk, learn and meet ingenious genius and good people of this world and sharing interests, jokes and experiences with them. If I haven’t got it, I haven’t got my cyberworld.

- And the saddest thing?

- Seeing the amount of victims, how are they increasing and the little things made to stop it. There isn’t real awareness about cybercrime is a real problem in our country (as in many others) and it should be. We don’t listen to who we should, to who helsp and to who warns. The user and company suffering is covered, redeemed to a second plane and it should get out. The victims don’t denounce because they don’t know how to do it, they don’t think their problems can be solved and there are no efficient ways to make it. When my mother shows me her WhatsApp and sais me: “daughter, look this weird thing they send me” I get goose bumps. Not, my mother no, please.

- Tell me the truth: are you or your partners on the Deep Web?

- I was before when I dedicated to investigation and there is a lot of fraud. Child pornography everywhere, gore, all kind of manuals (there are some very good, not all is bad). Sincerely, in my case there are so many stories and so many crimes in the normal web that we can’t embrace all of them. In the Deep Web we search for concrete objectives.

- Did you like the Lego or StarWars/StarTrek or some of this things the hackers love when you were young?

- Nope :D. No legos, neither Star Wars… I read all I can ( I was like the girl of the movie, Matilda”). And when I went outside I liked to explore and conquer territories and sometimes not in a pacific way and I got a few strikes. I created pinballs, crossbows, playmobil houses and all kind of stuff. My mother was tired of the mess of my terrace. My favourite game was Alex Kid on Miracle World of Sony (Master System 2) and Arkanoid.

- Would you give me a quote to finish?

- One time, somebody told to me: “You’ll be what live wants you to be”. If you have a dream, go for it until you get it, with humility and respect to all the people.



Text: Mercè Molist


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