Cyber Security is Focus of Thomas Nelson Forum

October 15, 2015
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As reported in the Daily Press on October 9, 2015

The victims are familiar names: Target, Sony, The New York Times, U.S. Central Command. All suffered from cybersecurity breaches, some more serious than others.

The next victim might be the company that locks its windows but forgets to close the garage door.

The idea of "basic cyber hygiene" is a good starting point for organizations looking to defend sensitive networks against cyber-criminals, said Air Force Col. Bradley L. Pyburn, the keynote speaker Friday at the fourth annual Hampton Roads Cyber Security Conference.

The event, which attracted 180 people, was hosted by Thomas Nelson Community College at the Peninsula Workforce Development Center in Hampton.

Pyburn, the senior cyberspace leader at Air Combat Command, said a sound defense is critical because the tactics of cyber-criminals are becoming more sophisticated. Outright attacks are no longer the only worry; defenders must consider feints and deception.

"Think about how ground forces go at each other," he said. "I'm going to demonstrate and make a lot of noise, and you're going to have to deal with me. But I'm coming around in another direction. We've got to think about that. This is a war-fighting domain, and the folks we're going up against are good."

He's concerned about data stealing and destruction, but said "what really keeps me up at night" is data manipulation. Imagine an Air Force pilot who flies to an area expecting to hook up with a tanker for in-flight refueling, and the tanker isn't there.

"Pretty scary," he said.

Pyburn said the Air Force is ramping up its cybersecurity efforts, although more remains to be done. There needs to be more recruiting of cyber-warriors, and those who fight in this man-made realm must be well-trained and accumulate experience.

Training is what TNCC had in mind when it began its cybersecurity program some years ago. The program has attracted a mix of new students and career switchers, but that is changing, said Charles B. Swaim, the dean of business, public services, information systems and mathematics.

As the economy improves, the school is seeing fewer people switching careers and more new students coming to the program.

"We're finding that at least 70 percent of the students coming to us are brand new to IT," he said. "So we really need to school them up from the ground floor. That's why we've redesigned our career studies certificate."

A degree program in cybersecurity is being finalized, he said.

This year's conference will also feature experts from the FBI, Verizon Wireless, Fire-Eye and the Department of Homeland Security.