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East Midlands Chamber News

East Midlands enterprising women: Madeline Cheah

From legal and finance to logistics and housing, a wide range of sectors in the East Midlands are blessed with an even more diverse set of female talent in senior positions. To celebrate International Women's Day 2021 on 8 March, East Midlands Chamber profiles the inspiring stories behind 10 of the region's top enterprising women throughout the week.

From company servers to future self-driving vehicles, cyber threats are a constant menace lurking around every corner.

The hackers behind the cyber-attacks that have potential to cause mayhem could be based anywhere in the world and from any ethnic, gender or socio-economic background.

“So if attackers come from all walks of life, we must make sure the defenders are too,” says Madeline Cheah, the cyber security lead at automotive technology consultancy HORIBA MIRA.

She points to research by the VPN provider HMA that explored the difference in how men and women approach privacy settings.

For example, 62% of women used personalised settings, compared to 49% of men, while there was a marked difference in those who would make lasting changes to their online behaviour (61% of women versus 51% of men said they would) after experiencing a security problem.

Madeline adds: “In cyber security, there’s a bit of a cat and mouse game that happens between attackers and defenders, but it’s obviously always the case that the hackers don’t need to care for the law so they can move a lot faster.

“One of the ways we can protect ourselves against them is to cover every angle possible, and a lot of that comes from having a diversity of perspectives.”

Cyber security interest has roots in school for Madeline Cheah

Born in Malaysia, Madeline recalls her passion for computers being fired while at a British school in Indonesia.

Her career has been built on a combination of experience in academia and business, having built on her master’s degree in digital forensics, which explores how computer evidence can be used to solve crimes, to specialise in automotive cyber security for a PhD at Coventry University.

With the future of cars underpinned by three megatrends – self-driving systems, electrification and safety – there’s a key role to play for cyber security in order to protect the connected systems involved.

Throughout her learning, Madeline has noticed a great gender divide, reflecting: “When I lectured at university, there was maybe one out of 100 students who was a woman.

“That was eight or nine years ago and while diversity is improving, there’s still a long way to go – not just in gender but across all attributes of diversity.”

Madeline now heads up a team of six PhD students as cyber security innovation lead at HORIBA MIRA, an independent consultancy founded in 1946 that now provides services such as research, testing and certification to the motor industry.

It’s also one of several partners, also including the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, in the MIRA Technology Institute – a bespoke automotive skills centre that it neighbours at the MIRA Technology Park, an enterprise zone in Nuneaton.

While Madeline owes much for her position at the forefront of creating secure connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) to a lifelong devotion to STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, she believes the acronym is missing an “A” for arts – which has a key role to play in photographic technology and understanding human behaviours.

She adds: “Cyber security touches every part of our lives so it’s actually a social problem in which some of the solutions are technical, but some are social.

“If we can reframe STEM subjects more holistically – how they will help humans, such as autonomous vehicles making driving accessible to vulnerable people – they will become less intimidating and more open to everyone.”


This story features in the March edition of Business Network, which has a special enterprising women theme. To read the magazine, click here.