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The Information Security Office’s annual SecurityCon event will be held on October 9. While the conference will be fully virtual this year, event managers Charlie Mewshaw and Michael Williams of the Information Security Office strive to uphold the success of the event.

Man tries to pick a lock at the 2019 SecurityCon
An attendee of the 2019 SecurityCon tries to pick a lock

The conference will be a free opportunity for students, faculty and staff to observe tech demonstrations, participate in interactive hacking contests and pick the brains of information security professionals.

Registration is open to the entire campus community.

Something old, something new

Because the conference is being held via Zoom this year, attendees can easily drop into sessions and stay as long as they want. 

While many parts of the conference will remain the same, like the traditional lock-picking demonstration, adjustments will be made to accommodate the virtual format.

“We’ve shortened the event to avoid Zoom fatigue. It has the same aspects just compressed in a smaller event time-wise, while maintaining the same experience,” Williams said.

Lucy Kerner, senior principal global cybersecurity evangelist and strategist at Red Hat, will be the keynote speaker.

“We’re really excited to continue the tradition we started last year, combining the cybersecurity keynote speech with SecurityCon,” Mewshaw said. Kerner “will share about her journey in the industry and technical information, so there will be something for everyone.”

Painting with broad strokes

Since its inception two years ago, SecurityCon has catered to a varied audience across the University.

SecurityCon “covers things that are interesting to students, staff and faculty by sharing insight on what they should learning now if they want to be in the industry, and what people already in the industry should be focusing on right now,” Williams said.

Michael Williams and Charlie Mewshaw
Michael Williams and Charlie Mewshaw in early 2020

SecurityCon organizers have designed activities that will appeal to attendees with different levels of cybersecurity knowledge. One of the interactive activities is a cloud-based capture the flag hacking competition. Another is a Zoom breakout room where visitors can see demonstrations and informally network.

Attendees can also join another breakout room where they can ask questions about privacy concerns.

Campus partners

Groups across campus are playing crucial roles in the execution of the SecurityCon conference. Representatives from the School of Medicine and School of Dentistry are serving on a panel about incident handling.

Campus Mail hammered out the logistics so that the first 100 students to register will have swag sent to their campus mailboxes when they register for the conference.

The Information Security Office is sponsoring SecurityCon in partnership with ResNET, the ITS Service Desk and the Department of Computer Science.

“We’ve gotten support from everyone, both old and new, like Campus Mail. It’s good to see that people are excited that we’re still doing this,” Mewshaw said.

Making this work

Mewshaw and Williams started brainstorming about SecurityCon in March and refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic derail their plans.

“A big part was adjusting our own expectations, but everyone came to the table with an ‘I want to make this work’ attitude,” Mewshaw said.

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