Online Cyber Student Publishes Cybersecurity Book for Kids
A graduate student in the Master of Science in Cybersecurity – Online (OMS Cybersecurity) program at Georgia Tech is celebrating the release of her second children’s book, Oh, No ...Hacked Again!: A Story About Online Safety.
Inspired by the life events of her own four children, author Zinet Kemal breaks down common cybersecurity concepts in the book such as phishing schemes, password security, two-factor authentication, and IP addresses in a way kids understand.
“I wanted to show kids a grown-up who works in cybersecurity as well as spark the interest of young readers who look like me to see cybersecurity as a career option while also seeing themselves in the story,” Kemal added.
The story is told through the eyes of Elham, an eight-year-old girl from Minnesota who comes to find her favorite online game account has been comprised for the second time. As the events of the book unfold, Elham’s mother, a cybersecurity professional, talks with her about making safe online choices, recognizing phishing schemes, and how to set up a two-step authorization for her account.
“The idea to write a book about our experience came to me during the start of the pandemic, and I couldn't let it go,” Kemal said. “Today’s kids are always online, and I want to teach them safe online habits and basic cyber hygiene.”
The self-published author wrote her first book, Proud in Her Hijab: A Story of Family Strength, Empowerment, and Identity, in 2021 to empower girls who wear hijabs to be proud of their identities and create awareness for the practice. Kemal encourages her readers to appreciate the importance of diversity, other cultures, and faith. The book topped the Amazon bestseller list and received the 2021 Distinguished Authors Guild and 2022 Literary Titans Book Award. All four of her children are characters and the inspiration for her stories.
When she is not writing, Kemal works as an associate cloud security engineer for Best Buy and continues to work on her graduate degree from the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech.
Before launching a career in cybersecurity and authoring children’s books, Kemal had a legal career in Ethiopia. She and her husband immigrated to the United States in 2013 with their three-year-old son. During the move, Kemal was seven months pregnant with Elham, the inspiration for her second book.
Once the family settled in Minnesota, Kemal began working to earn her associate degree in computer programming. After transferring to Metropolitan University to earn her bachelor’s in computer science, she participated in the Minnesota Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition where her team placed third. Kemal realized her passion for cybersecurity while working alongside her teammates to defend their computer network from the event’s professional hackers.
“I didn’t know of cybersecurity at first, I just thought I would just be a programmer after completing the program,” she said. “I have always wanted to help build things to solve problems and once I found cyber, I never looked back.”
After completing her undergraduate degree, completing multiple IT internships, and finding her first full time role, Kemal applied to the newly established OMS Cybersecurity program at Georgia Tech. She is currently enrolled in the policy track of the graduate program but has taken courses in all three of the interdisciplinary fields the degree covers- Cyber Physical Systems, Information Security, and Policy.
The online format offered through Georgia Tech Professional Education has allowed her to juggle being a mother of four and a full-time cybersecurity professional.
“What's great about OMS Cybersecurity is the rigor of the online program is the same as on-campus,” she said. “I can set my own pace and do what works for me and my family.”
Kemal was recently a keynote speaker at the SANS Institute New2Cyber Summit 2022 where she shared how she has taken her background from a legal career and applied it to her new career in cybersecurity. When she graduates later this year, Kemal will have a post graduate certificate in international trade law, two bachelor's degrees, an associate degree, and a dozen certifications to compliment her master's degree from Georgia Tech.