This week, one woman made headlines in Saudi Arabia and across the globe for discovering a flaw in the security systems of Apple, Microsoft, and Linux. The young Saudi PhD candidate Fatemah Alharbi realized there was a problem in security that enables any hacker to force the browser to visit a hacker-controlled site, making the victim believe they are actually on a safe site. According to Arab News, victims of such an attack end up entering their personal information, which becomes accessible to the hacker.
Upon realizing this issue, Alharbi contacted Apple to inform them “about the vulnerability in the system, and shared with them all the technical details and code.” Following her contribution, the tech company credited Alharbi on their website and added her to the system’s list of contributors.
“The company contacted me immediately and informed me that they'll release a new update for all Apple devices. They then asked for my permission to add my name to the recognition list. Of course, with pride, I agreed and thanked them for that,” she explained to the news site.
Honored to be acknowledged by Apple in the recent macOS security update— Fatemah Alharbi (@FatemahAlharbi) 24 janvier 2019
الحمدلله الذي بنعمته تتم الصالحات .. ((اللَّهُمَّ انْفَعْنِي بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِي، وَعَلِّمْنِي مَا يَنْفَعُنِي، وَزِدْنِي عِلْمًا)) https://t.co/3lBIeMjsIs
Jeddah-born and raised, Alharbi is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at the University of California and is also a lecturer at the College of Computer Science and Engineering at Taibah University, Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. Prior to this, she graduated with a master's degree in Computer Science from California State University and a bachelor's degree in the same specialization from King Abdulaziz University.
In her interview, the young student explained that her focus has been the detection and analysis of weaknesses or defects in security networks, and she also explained how she became interested in cybersecurity specifically.
“I took a security course that was instructed by Prof. Omaimah Bamasak, who delivered the subject in a very interesting way. This influenced my decision to work in the field of cybersecurity, and specifically in information and network security […] I have a good understanding of computer systems, both their design and implementation, including operating systems, software, network protocols and their interactions. Recently, I've been passionate about building systems that will have a long-term impact,” she said.