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Cybersecurity alum Muraleedhara now published author
Alex Keimig
Technology Division alum Prathibha Muraleedhara.
Technology Division alum Prathibha Muraleedhara.

Some might say that the writing is on the wall when it comes to digital security. For Technology Division alum Prathibha Muraleedhara, who earned her master's degree in cybersecurity at the University of Houston, it might be more apt to say that the writing is in the cloud(s).

Having completed her bachelor's degree in telecommunications at BMS Institute of Technology in India, Muraleedhara spent several years working with KPMG India and Paladion Networks, where she handled application security architecture review.

"My passion for cybersecurity was growing, and I really felt how important this area is and the demand for it. Every company needs a cybersecurity team, right? So, I thought, let me pursue my education further and get a formal degree in cybersecurity. That's when I enrolled at the University of Houston."

Muraleedhara cites the comprehensive and multidisciplinary coursework — from PEN testing and SCADA security to risk assessment and project management — as instrumental in preparing her to formally advance her career. She mentioned that professor Arthur Conklin had a particularly positive influence on her. 

"Professor Conklin, in particular, was very inspiring,” she said. “[My graduate education] gave me a good foundation to build on, and it prepared me to go and face the professional world outside. Even the project management skills I learned are helping me to work as a manager now. So many of the topical courses too, like PEN testing, were very hands-on. It wasn't just trying to understand theory by reading a book. The class was very practical, with labs set up to help us break into networks and act like attackers to better understand how they think, how they break into systems, and how we can fix them."

During her time with what was then the College of Technology, Muraleedhara completed a summer internship with HPE in Austin, Texas. She also contributed to the university's Cybersecurity Team operations. In both experiences, her work focused on detecting and identifying network vulnerabilities, bolstering intrusion prevention, and studying incoming traffic to help identify potential threats. 

In short: she worked multiple critical angles to keep the black hats out.

"That was a great learning experience for me," she said.

Muraleedhara now works for Stanley Black & Decker, and recently published a chapter, "Threat Modeling and Risk Analysis for Cloud Deployments", in Analyzing and Mitigating Security Risks in Cloud Computing. The book aims to emphasize the significance of educating cloud customers about the potential threats and security risks associated with the cloud-based services as well as relevant tools to help organizations safeguard their cloud environment.

Her chapter identifies various security concerns that can occur due to misconfiguration, providing an in-depth explanation of the methodology used for cloud architecture threat modeling and an actual threat modeling assessment of an application hosted via AWS.

"Just because your application is hosted in the cloud does not automatically make it secure," Muraleedhara said. "It's still exposed to threats. It's the responsibility of both the cloud providers — like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud — as well as the people host their applications in the cloud to consider security. Ninety-five percent of the security of cloud-based applications lies with the customers who post them.”

"If you're renting a house," she continued, "you trust the builder, but you still need to have security controls like cameras, lock your doors, and keep your windows closed."

As her career continues, Muraleedhara hopes to encourage more women to pursue educations and careers in cybersecurity, which she describes as a "male-dominated domain."

"I've been working with Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) — attending conferences, mentoring, and serving as a tech ambassador … I'd really like to mentor and help other women who are also coming up in this field," she said.

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