THE ENGINE THAT COULD: CYBERSECURITY AND LARAMIE’S HISTORIC TRAIN DEPOT

LARAMIE – Sometimes cybersecurity feels like an uphill climb, but learning from a popular train story all you have to do is think positive and it will eventually feel easy. Charles Van Huele, volunteer and Board Director for the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot, experienced this when tackling cybersecurity.

The Laramie Historic Railroad Depot tied for second place in the 2019 Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses. The competition winners were announced at the Wyoming Cybersecurity Symposium on October 23 in Cheyenne.

However, this is only the end of the story. The real story is the Depot’s journey and persistence.

The Train Depot is a popular place for weddings and events in Laramie. The journey started two years ago when renters began asking for wi-fi access. The Board knew they had to come into the 21st century in order to address the long term needs of the community and highlight their facilities.

Van Huele found out about the 2018 Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses and decided that the services offered for free may be just what the Depot needed.

“Ultimately, our main goal was to provide wi-fi for our renters because it was one of the main things they kept requesting. Once we got the wi-fi, I realized there was quite a bit of security that we just didn’t have in place to protect ourselves and our renter simultaneously,” said Van Huele.

In early 2018, the Board had just bought internet service, a wireless router, and a new laptop. They were starting from scratch. “Since we got in on the ground level, it was easy to build up to where we should have been instead of trying to race to catch that spot,” said Van Huele.

At the end of the 2018 Competition, the Depot wasn’t done meeting its goals. They had the wi-fi secure, but wanted to add RailFan cameras, up their game on physical security, update their website, and write new policies and procedures regarding their security. However, they decided to throw their hat into the judging pool and see where they might land. They didn’t win.

But they persisted. “I think I can” was on their mind.

The Depot continued to meet with CyberWyoming and walk through status reports each month until they could meet their goals. They purchased cyberliability insurance, wrote policies and procedures, updated the locks on the doors, rebuilt some doors, added webcams for RailFan watchers, and implemented a new website with secure payment processing.

“We also added the web cams, and there are thousands of people that watch trains on our webcams. So it’s ridiculous, but fun. Before this whole [cybersecurity] process started, you didn’t know where to start,” said Van Huele.

“I have to emphasize that the Train Depot Board of Directors, especially Charles, did all of the work themselves. CyberWyoming just offered a framework, education, and advice when needed,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming and the Train Depot’s Cybersecurity Business Counselor, “This journey is a real feather in the caps of a bunch of volunteers.”

In April 2019, the new website went live and the Depot’s cybersecurity goals had been met. They were in maintenance mode with a plan for ongoing cybersecurity maintenance that they put together with CyberWyoming’s framework.

“The NIST framework is the gold standard, but the guidebook is 50 some pages for small businesses and often uses techie language. So, we boiled that down to an understandable, manageable checklist that is maintained by Wyoming companies for Wyoming companies. CyberWyoming members review this checklist every 6 months,” said Baker.

CyberWyoming’s members include Team Networks (Casper), Ptolemy Data Systems (Sheridan), NGL Connections (Evanston), Traveling Computers Inc (Riverton), Sweetwater Technologies (Rock Springs), and Campbell County Health’s IT Team (Gillette).

After reaching the Depot’s goals, Van Huele’s positive nature took over and he thought “Why not try again?” He entered the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot in the 2019 Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses and tied for second place.

Cybersecurity was intimidating at first. “Once I got to talking with [CyberWyoming] that first visit, I was kind of buried. And I’m not going to lie. I was frightened because I was like, what have I gotten us into? And now it makes so much sense. And it was so much easier than I was worried about…it was really not something I should have been that terrified of,” said Van Huele, “It made me ask other questions that I didn’t even think of. I didn’t have to build a program. I just had to work with programs that were in place.”

Two years later, the Depot’s Board is more aware, an historic landmark in Laramie is more secure, and the trains are broadcast to train-iacs nationwide. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

Congratulations to the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot!

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