LARAMIE – Top winners of the 2021 Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses were announced at the virtual Wyoming Cybersecurity Conference on Friday October 8.
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, to date, has gained national and international attention being the only of its kind.
“The industry is finally realizing that you can add software and hardware as much as you want, but humans hold the key to security. But in the competition, we have been doing this for 4 years!” said Laura Baker, Co-Founder of CyberWyoming. According to the 2020 Global Employee Risk Report by Elevate Security, human risk factors have been the top 5 out of 7 data breach sources for the past 5 years.
The participating companies were judged on six general categories: 1. Presentation, 2. Thoroughness, 3. Technical Expertise, 4. Planning, 5. Innovation, and 6. 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. Shantel Anderson, of Star Awards & Promos in Laramie, was the Judging Committee Chair.
Bighorn Airways of Sheridan captured first place. At Wyoming’s Cybersecurity Conference, Cyber Leader Penny Rader spoke about her 5 year journey with different organizations to reach NIST 800-171 compliance. She specifically acknowledged PDS (Ptolemy Data Systems), Wyoming Manufacturing Works, the SBDC’s PTAC Division, the Department of Workforce Services, her intern Coen Rader, and CyberWyoming.
“I don’t know how to tell you what this program [Wyoming’s Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses] can do for you, except that they surprise you and they make it easy to work through…You can’t go wrong when you sign up to have CyberWyoming help you,” said Rader. She continued, “They have so much knowledge and they have a desire to get you to understand what’s happening and what you need.”
Second place went to another Sheridan company, Frontier Asset Management. “I was only a handful of months into my employment with Frontier when we submitted the paperwork to join the competition. I can’t think of a better way to acquaint myself with the network here. It was like having a workout buddy and Laura [Baker] and Cooper [Eaton] were there every step of the way cheering me on,” said Ryan Johnson, Systems Administrator of Frontier Asset Management.
Sheridan has had a top 3 winner in all 4 years of the program. “We at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce are so proud to have had member businesses place in the Top 3 every year of the Cybersecurity Competition! This shows that our local businesses value not only security for their business, but also for their employees and our community. They make strengthening their business a priority, and in return our community benefits by their success. We also applaud Laura and her team at CyberWyoming for conducting such an important statewide competition. Keep up the great work!” said Dixie Johnson, CEO of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, at a February Chamber of Commerce meeting promoting the competition, Jesus Rios of PDS (also from Sheridan) added icing to the cake encouraging other Sheridan businesses to enter the 2021 competition by offering to raffle selected free services for a year.
Third place showed a tie between two Cheyenne organizations: the Boys & Girls Club of Cheyenne and Wyo Support.
“The Boys & Girls Club of Cheyenne decided to enter the competition when our national organization discontinued our cybersecurity training that they offered to our staff. It was my opinion at that time that we still needed to train our staff in order to best train our kids that attend our club, as after all they are tomorrow’s professionals,” said Laura Malone, Director of Finance for the Boys & Girls Club of Cheyenne.
John H. Keesling of Wyo Support, a new technology managed service company, joined the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and entered their Cybersecurity Accreditation program, which is a Microsoft grant funded collaborative program between CyberWyoming and the Cheyenne Chamber Foundation. As Keesling stepped through the Cheyenne Chamber Accreditation program, he learned about the Competition and decided to enter.
“When you need help with IT there are a number of resources. The Accreditation program with the Cheyenne Chamber can offer self-analysis and improve those points of IT [information technology] security that may have slipped through the cracks. Additionally you can reach out to friends or family members that do IT services on the side or managed service providers like Wyo Support. We are all here to help you when you need it,” said Keesling.
Wyo Support is the first technology provider to be in the top 3 in the competition. Information technology companies are at a disadvantage in the competition because of the judging category “look how far we have come.”