Experts urge companies to beef up systems at Missouri Chamber’s Cybersecurity Summit

  

COLUMBIA, Mo. – As the threat of cybersecurity continues to loom in today’s digital age, both Missouri’s public and private sectors have turned their eyes to finding ways to not only address the threat but also find ways to prevent attacks.

A number of national experts gathered at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday to discuss the issue of cyber hacking and share proactive solutions with Missouri businesses.

The Cybersecurity Summit, hosted by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Huber & Associates, featured a panel of guest speakers from Ingram Micro, Symantec Corp, Monsanto, the National Guard, IBM and Huber & Associates.

“Many businesses in our state have already been hit by hacks, data thefts, and other cybercrimes. Despite the growing threat that these attacks pose, many company leaders are unaware of what they need to do to stop them,” Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO, said. “The best way to protect our business community from this threat is to be proactive. We need to educate ourselves about this issue and take steps to protect our data and our companies.”

With a room full of attendees, experts shared a number of tips on how companies across the state can ensure the security of their data, while also expressing what the consequences of not taking steps to protect from attacks can lead to.

Cybersecurity can be a vast and confusing topic, as one expert noted. Thomas Norman of  Ingram Micro told the audience that 73 percent of malware attacks happened simply because a user clicked on something they didn’t know not to.

Thomas Norman

“Cybersecurity can be profoundly confusing,” he said. “It’s like being a soldier on the field in the 15th century with a sword and shield, ready to storm the walls of the castle, and all of the sudden, up from the walls of the castle comes a wall of arrows heading straight for you. There’s so much coming at you that it can be overwhelming. We need to correctly assess our risks. Understanding your vulnerabilities and risks is extremely important.”

Experts urged the companies to analyze their systems, saying they need to look into getting a next generation firewall. But they also discussed the consequences of a lax system, saying that it costs more than just money and data. It also costs trust, security, and lost reputations for companies.

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“Just ask Target,” Norman quipped.

Companies were encouraged to reach out to cybersecurity experts to look at their systems. The cyber service companies present told the attendees of the three types of analysis and why they’re necessary.

“A gap analysis uses the compliance standards to tell us what must be done to protect data, a vulnerability analysis looks into what needs to be addressed, and a consequence analysis looks into what happens if those issues are not addressed,” Norman told the audience.

Renault Ross from Symantec stressed the importance of a “human firewall”, or the need to train a company’s staff on how to properly defend against attacks.

“A firewall blocks ports, applications, and services, but a human firewall is about people,” he said. He encouraged all of the companies to bring security training in for all employees, calling it the first line of defense. He also encouraged them to utilize strong authentication systems.

But he also stressed the need for more cybersecurity education and sharing the opportunities for employment, nothing a growing need in the field.

“It’s not that we have too many bad guys, but not enough good guys,” he said.

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Benjamin Peters

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.

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