U set to host Cyber Security Summit

Cybersecurity experts will converge at Coffman on Oct. 3.
September 29, 2011
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the Cyber Security Summit.

Lectures on hackers, national internet security and cyber warfare are coming to Coffman Union.

Cybersecurity experts will converge at the University of Minnesota for its first-ever Cyber Security Summit on Oct. 3 to discuss digital threats.

The summit is part of October’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, said Ginny Levi, a director with the Technology Leadership Institute at the University. It’s the eighth year the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has promoted the month of awareness.

Levi said the University and other major institutions are always under cyber threat.

“We’re all at some risk,” she said.

Every year, 10,000 cyberattacks are made against computers in the University’s network, the Minnesota Daily reported in October 2010.

The College of Science and Engineering began offering a Master of Security Technology graduate degree in 2010, Levi said. The degree was created in response to a spike in demand for cybersecurity professionals nationwide.

The first graduating class of the 14-month program had 32 graduates, and 30 more are currently enrolled, she said.

Experts from local businesses, the University and state government will speak to professionals and students about improving the world’s digital security.

“What we really wanted to do was provide an opportunity for the private, government and nonprofit sectors to come together,” Levi said.

Levi wants to promote a holistic view of security, beyond the usual approach of “dogs, guns, cameras and cards.”

A holistic approach involves teaching the average citizen good online security habits, said Chris Buse, the state’s Chief Information Security Officer.

“Cybersecurity really impacts everyone,” he said.

Cybersecurity is a national threat too, said Gopal Khanna , a senior fellow for the Technology Leadership Institute.

“[It’s] a threat that impacts all sectors of our economy and country,” said Khanna, who will speak at the summit.

Securing the country’s data infrastructure was a challenge, he said, since it’s not fully policed in a “super-connected” world. “It’s a freeway, literally,” he said.

Khanna promotes the concept of “mutually assured survival” by which countries form an alliance against hackers “threatening open democracy,” under a philosophy that a cyberattack on one country is an attack against all.

“[The threat] is incredibly high,” Khanna said, adding that hackers could attack the nation’s critical utilities and infrastructure.

“Attacks can lead to cyber warfare,” he said. “We did not envision this when the first computer was built.”

Khanna said anyone’s computer can be hijacked and used as a “launching pad” for attacks.

Along with identity thieves and technologically advanced nations, Buse said activist hackers are a big threat to the country’s important data.

“They’re not necessarily going out there to steal money,” he said. “They want to shut down government because they hate it and the things government stands for.”

Buse likes that October brings recognition to security issues, but believes it’s something that should be focused on all the time.

“The fact that we have to have a month to remind us tells me we aren’t necessarily very mature as a profession yet,” he said.

Buse will deliver the keynote address at the conference and looks forward to speaking to cybersecurity professionals. He’s excited that University students will attend.

Khanna hopes the summit can help “push forward innovation” for securing communication networks.

Levi hopes to make the summit an annual event for the University. It will be held at 7:30 a.m. Monday in the Mississippi Room at Coffman Union. This event requires registration.

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