First Cybersecurity Summit keeps hackers and terrorists at bay

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Cybersecurity may bring to mind threats on a national scale, such as the 143 million American consumers whose personal information was exposed as a result of a data breach at credit reporting agency Equifax.

There are also cyber risks that can occur much closer to home, security experts in Mississippi say, and consumers often do not know how to address those issues.

“I think everybody pretty much thinks that it’s somebody else’s responsibility,” said Melissa Wiggins, a Mississippi College computer science professor.

The 2018 Mississippi College Cybersecurity Summit, Tuesday night through Wednesday, will bring a user-friendly approach to understanding cybersecurity threats and issues to businesses, government and the everyday consumer. The event will cover topics such as anti-terrorism strategies, risk management for small businesses, banking industry regulations, policy and protection and cybersecurity from a state government perspective.

The summit begins with a panel discussion Tuesday night that will address cybersecurity issues that could put the average person at risk of an attack. Wiggins said panelists will discuss how terrorist organizations and radical groups use online tools such as social media and video games to recruit its members.

Speakers will include Maeghin Alarid, a lead policy analyst with Toeroek Associates of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was a terrorism instructor at the Defense Nuclear Weapons School and is a published researcher.

Up to 300 people are expected to attend the summit. Wiggins, one of the main organizers of the summit, said many data breaches occur because consumers or small businesses are not paying attention to security or do not have a lot of the background necessary to do that.

Mississippi College

Melissa C. Wiggins, professor of engineering, computer science and physics, Mississippi College

“We want people to understand it can be a complex, but also a simple, thing to make sure we keep ourselves, our identities and our financial information secured,” Wiggins said. “We would like businesses and industries to see there are a lot of things they might not have necessarily thought about. This is a relatively new area.”

Wiggins said this is the first conference of its kind in Mississippi to educate the public in a consumer-friendly way on personal cybersecurity risks, as well as national threats such as cybersecurity warfare. She was inspired to coordinate this summit at Mississippi College after attending Montreat College’s RETR3AT Cybersecurity Conference in North Carolina.

The summit will provide cybersecurity tools and resources as it relates to a variety of industries and topics, such as infrastructure, health care, government, education, business and cryptocurrency, Wiggins said.

“People use social media, use email and do internet banking on their phones and having a secure device to do those things on is very important,” Wiggins said. “An insecure device could let a hacker come in and steal their money.”

The event also coincides with the recent launch of Mississippi College’s graduate and certificate program in cybersecurity studies, which Wiggins said is a booming field nationwide. Wiggins said the event will also focus on making the public aware of the jobs available in this new industry.

Cybersecurity has been a growing concern in Mississippi. Last fall, ProPublica reported that names, addresses, birthdates and the last four digits of social security numbers shared by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office with a voter registration clearinghouse is susceptible to hackers.

Joe Stradinger, CEO and founder of content and media company EdgeTheory, will moderate one of the panels at the event focusing on “Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency”. He said many small- and medium-sized businesses could go out of business within six months of a cyber attack.

“There are very few things in life that can really destroy you,” Stradinger said.

“As consumers, it affects every aspect of our lives – our kids, personally and in business.”

Event registration and additional information is available at css.mc.edu.