In its third year, the Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses is beginning on February 10 and encourages a human-centric approach to cyber leadership in small businesses that don’t have full time technology help.
Any small Wyoming business can enter the competition and receive free basic cybersecurity business counseling services. Cybersecurity business counseling services help establish a cyber leader in the office who may not be technically inclined, but is provided the tools and support to be successful in protecting the company. “We have had office specialists, marketing managers, and HR managers take the lead on cybersecurity in some offices with great success,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming, “You do not have to be technical at all.”
The competition winners speak at Cyber Leader Awards Banquet on October 6 in Casper and at the Wyoming Cybersecurity Conference on October 7 at Casper College. In addition, winners and participants will be featured in statewide press releases and on CyberWyoming’s website. To enter the competition, email [email protected] or download the application on www.cyberwyoming.org’s website. Final entries are due to the judges on August 31 and CyberWyoming helps participants write up the reports. The judges are recruited via economic development agencies throughout the state and are unknown to CyberWyoming’s staff that helps businesses reach their goals.
“Today’s cyber-criminals are increasingly sophisticated and pose more significant threats to the economy than ever before. New safeguards are needed in order to protect businesses both small and large,” said Greg Pierson, Community Relations Manager of the Northern Colorado and Wyoming Better Business Bureau. Pierson shared that the BBB has been active in creating cybersecurity risk strategies and sharing them with the Wyoming business community and has been a supporter in the past of Wyoming’s cybersecurity conferences.
Originally developed in 2018 by CyberWyoming, the competition was established through partnership with the Wyoming Business Report, owned by Adams Publishing Group. Now, in its third year the competition is wrapping up with an awards banquet on October 6 in Casper, the evening before the Cybersecurity Conference on October 7 at Casper College.
With a twist, Cheyenne’s community will have in-person, advanced Cybersecurity Business Counseling (CBC) services available through the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce via a Microsoft grant that facilitated a training partnership between CyberWyoming and the Chamber. As a result, Justin Gorman and Alexandra Farkas are the first trained CBCs in the nation.
While the Cheyenne Chamber does charge a flat fee for its cybersecurity business counselor services, members (and nonmembers) in Cheyenne will gain additional attention and services that are not available in the regular statewide competition. In addition, the Chamber has 5 arms for accreditation that encourage leadership in Cheyenne’s business community and cybersecurity is 1 of the 5 arms.
“We are really excited to bring the Cheyenne business community into higher levels of cyber hygiene in preparation for the GBSD [Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent] project,” said Justin Gorman, Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Partner Services.
Two years ago, Wyoming’s competition garnered national attention from CyberUSA affiliates and last year it was adopted by the US ICT Council of Myanmar, an international economic development agency. “It is really exciting to have our ideas used elsewhere in the world,” Baker said.
All small businesses, nonprofits, and home based businesses are welcome to enter. “Our small businesses today are Wyoming’s economic future,” said Baker.
While there is no entry fee, participants in the competition should be prepared for possible financial outlays to upgrade software, purchase hardware, and purchase cyber related services from attorneys, insurance agents, or IT professionals.
“In last year’s competition, I don’t think any of the small business participants spent over $500 unless you count those business owners that wanted, but didn’t necessarily need, a new laptop,” said Baker, “Cybersecurity can be inexpensive when you look at it from a leadership standpoint. Business owners lead their team every day so helping them learn to lead their same team in cybersecurity gives them the power to manage their risks.”
“By encouraging businesses to adopt improved cyber hygiene and best practices, the Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition is leading the way in keeping its community safe,” said David Powell, CEO of the Federal business Council and VP of CyberUSA. Other CyberUSA communities are sure to learn from this innovation,”
In 2019, the participating companies were judged on five general categories: presentation, thoroughness, technical expertise, progress towards goals, and planning. As in previous years, the final cybersecurity reports submitted to the judges will be anonymous. A strict separation of duties will exist between CyberWyoming, which runs the participants through the process, and the judging committee.
Winners in 2019 were First Northern Bank of Buffalo, Laramie Reproductive Health and Laramie’s Historic Railroad Depot. Winners in 2018 were First Federal Bank & Trust of Sheridan, a small programming shop called Language I/O of Cheyenne, and Wind Hosting of Lander, a home-based web-hosting business.
“If we get enough competitors this year, we are going to make a separate banking category in 2020,” said Baker, “Banks, because of federal regulations, are on an entirely different playing field than small businesses.”
“We brought the Depot out of the dark ages and into the future. Recently we made enormous updates to our website: redesigning our entire website, switching to the secure HTTPS, adding a digital register through SignaPay, and working with Virtual Railfan to install web cameras. Since our switch, we have received numerous complements on the new site. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to build our cybersecurity correctly the first time from the ground up,” said Charles Van Huele, Board Member and Volunteer for the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot and 2019 second place winner of the Competition.
“It was a thrill to participate in the Made Safe In Wyoming cybersecurity competition,” said Craig Boal, Director of Software Development at Language I/O. “We hope others will follow suit and help make Wyoming a leader in cybersecurity.” Boal worked closely with Matt Cook, Language I/O Software Developer and Data Protection Officer, to create policies and secure their intellectual property, physical office, and network.
CyberWyoming is a nonprofit organization that founded the Made Safe in Wyoming Program. The program helps business owners develop and implement best practices to become cyber secure through partnerships with Wyoming technology companies, law firms, insurance companies, education, and more.
“We don’t actually sell hardware or software and we don’t sell insurance or legal services related to cybersecurity,” Baker said. “Since we are a nonprofit organization, we consider ourselves a non-biased third party here to give you tailored advice on the cyber risks you can avoid. Some things you can do in-house and others you may need to consult an expert, but it is a fallacy that it is going to cost more than purchasing home-use equipment at a box store.”
To participate in the competition, business owners or managers should contact [email protected] to get a copy of the intent to participate form and make an appointment to discuss how to become cybersecure. CyberWyoming is responsible for monitoring efforts to meet best practices and helping the business owners document their progress. The final step is submitting the documentation to the judges, chosen by local economic development agencies.
“Can you imagine what would happen to Wyoming’s economy if we could prove that our businesses are the most cyber secure state in the nation?” asked Baker. “We already have low corporate taxes, a business-friendly environment, cutting edge blockchain laws, and the broadband ring. Add in stability and a good cybersecurity reputation for all our small business owners and we have an amazing selling point for new commerce in our state.”