JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Tech professionals and public sector leaders and employees gathered at the Capitol Plaza Hotel Tuesday to attend the first ever Missouri Governor’s Cybersecurity Summit.
Gov. Jay Nixon opened the conference with a speech stressing the need for cybersecurity as a service to people of Missouri, specifically because they trust the state with so much sensitive information.
“In countless situations, we have a responsibility: tax information, personal health information,” he said after the speech while listing off examples. “In the mental health arena, it’s especially important because of the stigma of mental health. Folks have tried to get into those records.”
Nixon said that hundreds of outside groups, including the hacker group Anonymous, have attempted to break into the state of Missouri’s systems in the past. He told the conference’s attendees that he hoped in the future people would ask how a cyber network exists without cybersecurity.
“This will be like ‘How did you have traffic without traffic lights?’ ” he said.
Office of Administration Director Doug Nelson* also spoke briefly at the event. He highlighted private sector sponsors and the government officials in attendance. Nelson described the conference as a way to “build the synergy, build the communication lane to move forward on this issue.”
The day-long conference will hold all manner of different insights on how to bolster cybersecurity to defend against hackers. Topics range from the role of education in cybersecurity, to roleplaying exercises to combat intrusions and the future of the internet. Featured speaker Teri Takai, former CIO for the Department of Defense, also spoke at the event about her experiences in bolstering cybersecurity.
The conference coincidentally comes just a day after the FBI released a report that hackers, potentially from Russia, have attacked electronic voting machines and state election offices in Illinois and Arizona, apparently in an effort to influence this year’s elections.
Nixon said that he and others in the executive branch were moving to defend against any potential threats that would intrude upon voting rights in Missouri.
“We’re working very hard through the Office of Administration and the Secretary of State’s office to assist and work with local election authorities so we can keep those people safe and protect and keep the sanctity of the vote,” he said.
UPDATED – 2:16 p.m., Aug. 31: Nelson was mistaken listed as Acting Director instead of Director. The mistake has been rectified.