2019 Cybersecurity Competition Winners Announced

CHEYENNE – Top winners of the 2019 Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses were announced at the Wyoming Cybersecurity Symposium in Cheyenne on Wednesday October 23.

The competition was developed to encourage Wyoming small businesses to meet best practices in cybersecurity through a home grown program called Made Safe in Wyoming.  The competition was the brain child of CyberWyoming and came into being through a partnership with the Wyoming Business Report.  The competition, to date, has gained national and international attention being the only of its kind. 

“Last year we were asked to speak about the Competition at CyberTexas and CyberUSA conferences.  This year, the US ICT Council for Myanmar adopted a Cyber Ready Challenge based on our ideas.  Jokingly as we discussed it, the Executive Director from US ICT thought maybe they could offer the Myanmar winners a ski trip to Wyoming, but that would have complicated things with visa and passport issues,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming.

The participating companies were judged on five general categories:  1. Presentation, 2. Thoroughness, 3. Technical Expertise, 4. Planning, and 5. Look How Far They Have Come.  The company reports submitted to the judges were anonymous and there was a strict separation of duties from CyberWyoming who ran the companies through the process and the judging committee.

“The judges thought everyone in the competition did very well,” said Shantel Anderson, Owner of Star Awards and Promos and Chair of the Judging Committee. “This year we had five judges review the submitted blind reports on each company’s cybersecurity journey.  A couple of things that stood out as good practices for everyone to consider were the use of separate guest wi-fi, the use of a Google Chromebook over Windows for security, and to remember that a company can safeguard their internal systems but most of the attacks and issues happen with user interaction of the systems.”

First place winner was First Northern Bank of Wyoming, headquartered in Buffalo.   First Northern Bank decided to join the Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses for three reasons.  The first reason was to increase the involvement and communication between bank staff and their IT vendor (Digeteks) as an area for continuous improvement.  Secondly, First Northern Bank used the competition as a double check of their existing security practices.  Third, First Northern Bank wanted to lead the way for other businesses in their community to meet best practices in cybersecurity.

“Our long term (11 year) relationship with Digeteks has paid off by retaining the institutional knowledge of the security team,” said Rick Myers, COO of First Northern Bank.  “In today’s tech world, cybersecurity risks are high for every business owner and individual in our communities,” continued Myers.

Outreach to the high school computer club and the local Chamber of Commerce are areas of future community collaboration that First Northern Bank is interested in pursuing.

Second place was deemed a tie by the judges and both companies happened to reside in Laramie and be nonprofit organizations.  The second place tie was awarded to the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot and Laramie Reproductive Health Clinic.

The Laramie Historic Railroad Depot is 100% board and volunteer managed.  While they entered the competition in 2018 and did not win because their process was incomplete, they continued to pursue their goal to meet cybersecurity best practices and finished the initial process late in the spring of 2019.  Celebrating their achievement of their goals, they decided to enter the competition again and see what happened. 

The Depot had only one computer, one printer and a wireless network.  However, it took them 11 ½ months to complete the process because they included cyberliability insurance, an infrastructure upgrade to their wireless system, new computer security education, Board security education, security policy writing, and a website upgrade into their goals. 

“We brought the Depot out of the dark ages and into the future.  Recently we made enormous updates to our website: redesigning our entire website, switching to the secure HTTPS, adding a digital register through SignaPay, and working with Virtual Railfan to install web cameras. Since our switch, we have received numerous complements on the new site.  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to build our cybersecurity correctly the first time from the ground up,” said Charles Van Huele, Board Member and Volunteer for the Laramie History Railroad Depot.

Also tied for second place was Laramie Reproductive Health Clinic (LRHC).  LRHC is Albany County’s family planning agency and must be HIPAA and Title X compliant.  It has 2 full time employees and 4-5 part time nurse practitioners.

“When the idea of working with CyberWyoming and entering into the competition was presented to us, I was initially confused and hesitant,” said Matthew Miller, Executive Director for LRHC. “My thoughts were: we work with an IT company that handles our firewall, server, etc. so why do we need to go through a program like this?” Miller continued.

But by going through the program, Miller realized that cybersecurity is much more than spending money on equipment.  It is looking at policies that need to be in place in the event of an attack, reviewing insurance and making sure cyber is covered, making sure staff is trained on preventing an attack and recognizing symptoms of compromise, and maintaining a consistent schedule to ensure that employee training and systems are up to date.

“I want to give a big thank you to Ami Hopper who took on the lead role in working through the competition,” said Miller, “She made this success possible.”

Other companies that committed to the competition process were Peregrine Academics of Gillette, Craftco Manufacturing of Sheridan, Wyoming Wind Counseling of Torrington, Cottonwood Kitchen of Sheridan, and Double D Realty of Torrington.   To date, 23 companies have participated in the Made Safe in Wyoming© checklist process in some form, whether in the competition or separately.

One judge said of the anonymous report submitted by Peregrine Academics of Gillette, “These guys are killing it!”  This goes to show that being a judge was not easy and every competitor that submitted a final report showed leadership, consistency, and problem solving skills.

“We were excited to help highlight the great work being done by small Wyoming businesses to become more cyber-secure,” said Roger Plothow, president of APG Signature Events, which produced the conference for the Wyoming Business Report. APG-SE is owned by the Adams Publishing Group, which also owns daily newspapers in Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins and Rock Springs.

The Competition may be slightly revamped in 2020 as Cheyenne’s entrants will most likely want to go through the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce’s Cybersecurity Business Counselors.  In addition, there is talk of combining the Cybersecurity Symposium with another event and moving it earlier in the year, thus the 2020 timing of the competition start date is uncertain.  Please check www.cyberwyoming.org’s website for more information or email info@cyberwyoming.org.  


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