National Cyber Summit draws teens and experts to solve security challenges

single-meta-cal June 24, 2018

Think about the average day in the life of many Americans. They wake up, likely with a cell phone alarm, and turn on the TV to catch some news on a “smart” TV. While making breakfast, they discover they’re short on a few key ingredients for dinner, so they ask a virtual assistant to order some groceries for delivery.

On the way to the office, they drop by a coffee shop to get a quick pick me up, and while there, hop on the free WiFi to check e-mail or bank accounts. At the office, they perform one last lock check using their mobile Nest app before settling in to manage hundreds of e-mails, and hoping only a few are spam. Lunch might be at a local restaurant with more free use of the local WiFi. After work, drinks with friends can be paid for with credit card or mobile pay option.

This is at least nine chances for private information to be compromised by a hacker. The emergence of connected devices has changed the way we live but it has also changed the way we need to think about security – cyber security. Thankfully, some of the smartest people in the country in cyber security were in Huntsville in June for the 10th Annual National Cyber Summit, hosted by Cyber Huntsville.

Honing cyber defense

This year’s event was the largest in the decade history of the summit. Attendees from 47 states and 625 organizations descended upon the Rocket City’s Von Braun Center to participate in keynotes addressing emerging cyber security threats, discussions dedicated to finance and manufacturing as well as space and defense, new paradigms in education and workforce development, presentations from leading researchers, and hackathons.

“The alignment of Huntsville’s deep and diverse technical capabilities with the burgeoning importance of cybersecurity across government and industry presents a natural opportunity for significant economic growth and national influence,”said Jonathan Pettus, Director of Cybersecurity and IT Solutions at Dynetics. “The success of this year’s Summit serves as a positive indicator of this potential and increases the national visibility of Huntsville as a leader in the cybersecurity field.”

It was also a great opportunity to discover careers in cybersecurity. The summit had 292 participate in its job fair for cleared and uncleared jobs.

One issue facing the cyber industry across the country is the need for more diverse cyber employees. This year the summit introduced the CyberReach Lounge to support diversity in the workforce. It provided networking opportunities and social events that were widely attended.

“I am very happy about our expanding outreach to women and minorities,”Kim King, President, Cyber Huntsville. “This is a huge and very necessary growth area. We are looking forward with keen anticipation to continued growth and support to Cyber students, professionals and businesses everywhere.”

Training cyber warriors

Preparing the workforce also let to one of the more adrenaline pumping event for the year. Nearly 25 student and 12 professional teams from throughout the Tennessee Valley and across the country competed for the Cyber Cup Challenge. Competition was fierce and awards distributed totaled $14,000.  Two female students who were late entrants and said they joined “just for the experience” scored 300 points without preparing to compete. They outscored adult professionals and other college teams that competed. Both were also offered internships by Cyber Protex.

“This year’s Cyber Cup Challenge was very well attended and competitors were truly getting in the spirit of the game,” said Nisheeth Agrawal, CIS& BUS Division Calhoun Community College. “It was fun to watch competitors, parents and mentors huddling around the score monitors. It was a tough challenge, but our local high school students hung in there and beat out most of the college teams to win 2nd and 3rd place. They tied the 1st place college team but lost the battle for time.”

A special high school event at the summit had 16 student participants. Three students who also competed in the Cyber Cup Challenge represented Grissom High School and took home the 2nd place prize. The students that attend the high school event are not cyber beginners – they are pursuing knowledge and skills outside of their classroom experience.

“We will have to up our game next year to make sure we are at their level,” said Ginger Cochran, director of the High School Event.