Veelasha Moonsamy Wants to Protect Our Data From Attacks

The newly appointed professor has been passionate about computer science since her childhood and moved from Mauritius to the world to pursue it. Today, she encourages other women to follow her path in IT security.

Copyright: RUB, Marquard

Whether viruses, Trojans or spyware: malware attacks our IT systems every day, collects sensitive data without being asked, tracks, de-anonymizes and spies on users. "Every day there is a new problem, a new attack that needs to be prevented. It never gets boring," says Veelasha Moonsamy. The newly appointed associate professor for Security and Privacy of Ubiquitous Systems at the Faculty of Computer Science wants to protect the systems we use every day, such as our smartphones, and therefore our private data. To do this, it is important for her to understand how different devices - smartphones, smart watches and even smart fridges - are networked and interact with each other. "In my research, I investigate how the systems are built, how software and hardware interact," explains Moonsamy.

Fascination Lies in the Unknown
For Moonsamy, the unknown, the unexplored security risks are what make her field of research, IT security, so fascinating. "Technologies, including malware, are constantly evolving. This is challenging and exciting. That's the fascination of IT security," says Moonsamy.

Favorite Subject: Computer Science
Born in Mauritius, she discovered her enthusiasm for IT topics at school. "I went to an all-girls school and was taught by a great computer science teacher," says Moonsamy. Computer science quickly became her favorite subject. It was clear early on that she wanted to study IT security. "I never considered anything else," Moonsamy recalls. After leaving school, she moved to Melbourne, around 8000 km away. "Deakin University was one of the first universities in Australia, at the time, to offer a Bachelor study program, with a major in IT Security."

One of Three Women
Her first day in the lecture hall was immediately followed by a small shock: "Apart from me, there were only two other women in the room. That was the first time I realized that it is rather unusual for women to learn and teach computer science in the western world. I only knew what I had experienced in Mauritius." The new experience made her very doubtful at first. "When I was considering changing subjects, I met a female computer science professor who encouraged me and said: if boys can do it, so can you," says Moonsamy. This professor became her mentor and later her doctoral supervisor.

The Reputation of HGI
After completing her doctorate in Australia, Moonsamy moved to Europe for the first time, first to Nijmegen in the Netherlands and then to Ruhr University. "There was no question of moving to Bochum. The Horst Görtz Institute is a world-renowned institution. The atmosphere, the multidisciplinary nature, the research opportunities and collaborations! Everyone is open and welcoming. It's exciting, you learn so much. The environment is simply enriching for your own development and career."

From Mauritius to Bochum
Moonsamy has been in Bochum for three years. Doesn't she miss her home in the Indian Ocean? "Mauritius is my happy place. My whole family lives there. I grew up very sheltered there." She tries to go back home once a year. "Unfortunately, the research resources you need to compete internationally in the field of IT security are not available there." Moonsamy has therefore made it her mission to bring IT security researchers to Mauritius, for example by organizing scientific conferences there in the future.

Giving something back
Moonsamy is still in contact with her former computer science teacher in Mauritius. "I am very grateful for the good training and support. I would like to encourage others: Even if you come from a country like Mauritius, a tiny dot on the world map, you can achieve something." Looking back, she realized how lucky and privileged she was to have such great female mentors at her side. 

"My CV now reads as if everything went like clockwork. It wasn't like that," Moonsamy says. She has a lot to thank her mentors for and wants to give back today. In her faculty, Moonsamy stands up for her female students and doctoral candidates, organizes network meetings, get-togethers and workshops. She is also very engaged in similar activities in the Cluster of Excellence CASA. "No girl or woman should doubt whether she is good enough to study computer science or pursue an academic career in IT security," says Moonsamy.

Veelasha's Career Path:

  • 2007 to 2011: Bachelor's degree in IT Security and Mathematical Modeling from Deakin University in Melbourne
  • 2012 to 2015: PhD from Deakin University in Melbourne
  • 2015 to 2017: Postdoctoral Researcher at Radboud University in Nijmegen
  • 2018: Assistant Professor at the University of Utrecht
  • 2019 to 2020: Assistant Professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen
  • 2020 to 2024: Tenured Faculty Researcher at Ruhr University Bochum
  • Since February 2024: Associate Professor for Security and Privacy of Ubiquitous Systems at Ruhr University Bochum

General note: In case of using gender-assigning attributes we include all those who consider themselves in this gender regardless of their own biological sex.