MADISON, Wis. — As the people of Wisconsin, businesses and local governments continue looking for new ways to fight potential cyber attacks, collaboration remains one of the best tools available to combat the threat. That was a recurring message on display at Wisconsin’s seventh Annual Governor’s Cybersecurity Summit, held this past Monday on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
The summit, which brings together professionals from across the public and private sectors, serves as an opportunity to share information about best practices and new methods for improving the security of networks and thwarting cyber criminals.
“Wisconsin is not immune,” Gov. Tony Evers noted during the conference’s opening ceremony. “State agencies, local governments and schools have all dealt with cyber incidents.”
“This conference is important because we want businesses, educational institutions and state, local and tribal governments to work together to fight cybercrime and to help each other when an attack occurs,” Evers said.
“There’s a lot of goodness that comes from this cyber world that is expanding and providing enormous efficiencies for our people” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general and homeland security advisor. “But at the same time, we have to partner together to meet the threats that come with that expanding universe.”
Dunbar highlighted many of the threats currently facing the state, as well as potential issues looming on the horizon that officials are already preparing for. Those include malware and ransomware attacks that have targeted schools and local governments, the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee and the 2020 presidential election, development of 5G technologies, and a growing shortage of qualified workers in cybersecurity-related fields.
“We have a lot at stake,” said David Cagigal, Chief Information Officer of the state of Wisconsin. “We’re all in this together, and as soon as the state understands the interdependencies, the better off the state will be.”
Those attending the summit heard from a wide range of speakers from the public and private sectors. Jeanette Manfra with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency discussed the many ways the federal government is trying to bring together all levels of government, the private sector, international partners, and the public, while Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe offered an update on how the state is preparing for the 2020 elections. The summit also featured panel discussions on cybersecurity and the electric grid featuring representatives of electric utilities, cyber response teams in Wisconsin and Michigan who help address cyber incidents, and local government experts who have dealt with cyber attacks targeting their systems.
Dunbar and Cagigal also met with several high school and college students attending the conference, during a private discussion about potential careers in cybersecurity. Middleton High School senior Evan Nelson said he was excited to learn more about the options available to him after college, and he was surprised to learn just how far-reaching the industry has become.
“There is a lot of extra security that I didn’t know about,” Nelson said, while noting that a big part of his attraction to cybersecurity comes from the fact that his parents both work in information technology roles. “It’s getting bigger and bigger as the years go on, and I just feel like it’s a really good opportunity for me.”