A GRADUATE from Abertay University in Dundee who overcame a childhood she describes as a “living nightmare” has written a powerful and inspiring account of her journey to becoming a cybersecurity professional.

Cheryl Torano, 36, outlines her turbulent start to life in new book The Rise of the Cyber Women, a collection of real life stories compiled by Lisa Ventura from the UK Cyber Association.

The stories are by women who are pioneers in the industry, and have overcome adversity or taken non-linear paths to where they are today.

Torano said: “I never even daydreamed about going to university, let alone having a career in the cybersecurity industry.

“I was a very troubled kid, going in and out of the care system and spending most of my days worrying about whether or not my siblings and I were going to eat that day.

“I regularly got into bother in school and in fact was excluded from high school 18 different times.”

At the age of 15 Torano lost her beloved big brother who was only 19 when he died. She said this was the day her childhood ended and she left school at 16 with basic qualifications and took a job in office administration.

She used every spare penny she had to pay for driving lessons, then, after she passed her test, to purchase her first car.

The move to cyber security began when Torano “dared to dream” of a career in IT. She was accepted to Abertay’s Ethical Hacking course after graduating from college.

Having two children solely dependent on her was not easy, but Torano had a goal. She said: “Balancing being a parent and university life was far from easy, and at times I had to remind myself, when I was exhausted, that my end goal was to benefit my children and honour the memory of my brother.

“But In the end, it was worth it.”

She managed to make global news when, as part of a project, she found a child’s doll could be hacked to say anything she commanded. The toy was later taken off the market.

After working in the university’s External Relations department, Torano moved onto become a cyber security engineer with the cloud services provider Brightsolid.

She hopes her story can inspire more women into cyber security.