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Northwestern University

Reflections on a Cyber Security Conference

 We've all come home from a conference with tote bags, screen cleaners, pens and other promotional debris that may or may not ever be used again. Ideally, we also come home with fresh perspective on ongoing problems, memories of an engaging presentation and a few business cards of colleagues. I recently attended one of my favorite security focused conferences, EDUCAUSE's Security Professionals Conference. It was in Chicago this year, so I didn't even need to manage the hassle of an airport security line.

I really like this conference because EDUCAUSE conferences specialize in higher education. That means I'm not just talking with fellow cybersecurity experts, but also people who understand the unique landscape of higher education institutions. With counterparts from peer institutions, I attended workshops and breakout sessions that highlighted topics from professional development to the latest trends in technology and security. 

The most exciting aspect for me at these events is the chance to share and learn from colleagues about their own struggles. I want to enable and maintain a secure and efficient teaching and research environment at Weinberg College. It is satisfying to be able to share experiences and advice that would help other colleagues with their own struggles and to learn from their experiences as well.

At the conference, I attended two workshops where I learned of new tools to help detect, trace, and remediate security related incidents. Many companies are developing new software tools to fight cyber crime, with one major area being Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). This is the category of security solutions that defends against sophisticated malware or hacking-based attacks targeting sensitive data. By using ATP services and solutions, cybersecurity professionals want to:

However, great tools only go so far. Common challenges faced by every institution are the status of their security awareness program and the adoption of a proactive culture towards security issues. Our faculty, staff, and students need to be well informed, trained and be encouraged to take a "be more secure" stance with their data.  Although tools like ATP help, a breach can happen through one simple click of the mouse by a well-intended member of our community. As cybersecurity professionals we want to engage and educate our communities on the ever-evolving nature of cyber crime.

My main takeaway from the conference was that in order to make the best use of advancing security tools, we need to build a security culture where everyone is invested in keeping themselves, and the rest of their community, secure. We want to enable secure research and teaching, not obstruct access to conversations, ideas, and data that make our institution thrive.

To that end, we'd like to know what you think about our security communications. What security topics would you like to hear more about? What are you worried about with your personal or institutional data?  Let me know in our three question survey


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