Women Sweep Cybersecurity Competition in 2022

LARAMIE – While the cybersecurity and technology industries groan about diversity, Wyoming women swept the top slots in Wyoming’s 2022 Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses.

“While we have always had a strong presence of women in the competition, this is the first-year women cyber leaders have taken all 3 top slots,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming and administrator of the cybersecurity competition program.

Cybersecurity can now be thought of as another frontier breached by women in the Equality State with cyber leaders Janis Black, the Practice Manager for Wyoming Surgical Associates, Dawn Connors, CFO of Taylor Construction, and Shelby Hughes, owner of Hughes Legal LLC.

Each company reached the winners circle due to the determination, talent, and skill exhibited by their cyber leader.  Hughes took first in the category of no technical help, Connors took first in the category of contracted or consistent technical help, and Black took first in the category of technical help on staff (or a managed service provider relationship like a staff member).   

Hughes Legal LLC – Shelby Hughes

Even though she did all the work herself, Hughes met 100 percent of her goals in the competition and 100 percent of the competition recommendations and was the first to complete the program out of the eighteen companies participating.

“As an attorney, I have an ethical duty to safeguard client information, including data in digital form,” said Hughes. 

An enlightening moment for Hughes was when she inventoried her cloud systems, evaluating the security features of each.  This led to switching to more secure products and, on others, increasing authentication security, like adding two factor authentication.  She also focused on separating work from personal systems, designating a computer and a wireless network just for work.

“Wyoming’s Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses educated me on how to effectively implement and optimize processes to properly uphold this responsibility in a way that makes sense for my remote, online business, and serves the best interests of my clients,” said Hughes.

Taylor Construction – Dawn Connors

While Taylor Construction actually entered the competition in 2021, they didn’t feel they had progressed far enough to submit a 2021 report to be judged.  Instead, Dawn Connors CFO and co-owner of Taylor Construction, decided to take a short break and re-enter the contest in 2022.  This year and a half process introduced her to other business owners going through the same program, mentors who had completed the program, and Wyoming based businesses that provided IT support and solutions.

Connors found the competition through the Wyoming Women’s Business Center’s webinar series where CyberWyoming presented Take the Hook out of Phishing Scams and also explained the competition program.

“In 2021 I found our emails to be the target of phishing scams.  My email alone could reach ten email spoofing or phishing emails a day. I was very nervous that I or one of my team members would believe one of these to be legit, click a link, and our whole system would be exposed to a virus,” said Connors.  The webinar is still available at .wyomingwomen.org/training.

“After hearing what I would learn in this competition program, I knew it was just what we needed,” said Connors.

During the competition, Taylor Construction met 100 percent of their own security goals and more.  “We now have a program that quarantines nearly all phishing and spoofing emails, and our team members have education on how to recognize these threats. I now understand so much more about hardware, software, and what questions to ask,” said Connors. 

Wyoming Surgical Associates – Janis Black

The area of distinction that awarded the judges’ points was Wyoming Surgical Associates long term, trusting relationship with their technology managed service provider, DigeTekS LLC.

“One day, about 17 years ago, something broke and I called a random IT (information technology) company in Colorado, and I got Shane (Brown).  He was driving in his car, but he walked me through every step to fix the problem and he has been my guy ever since,” said Black. “I was sold,” she continued.  Brown, later, started his own technology support company and Wyoming Surgical Associates followed him to DigeTekS.

Another impressive statistic that helped Wyoming Surgical Associates win is that between Brown, Black, and Brent Burkhalter, another DigeTekS technology consultant, Wyoming Surgical Associates has 45 years of systems institutional history.

“The institutional history that the three of us have is invaluable.  We have solved a lot of problems together,” said Black.

About the Competition

The 2022 Competition was supported by a grant from Microsoft and the Department of Workforce Services and due to CyberWyoming’s 2022 members and sponsors: Capitol Communications Inc., Campbell County Health, Cheyenne State Bank, CPU (Computer Professionals Unlimited), DigeTekS LLC, EvnTec, Factory IT, First Federal Bank & Trust, First Interstate Bank, Gannett Peak Technical Services, HUB International, IECA, K2 Technologies, Manufacturing Works, PDS, Sweetwater Technology Services, and TEAM.  For more information about the 2023 Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses visit https://cyberwyoming.org/competition.

The competition was developed by CyberWyoming in 2018 to encourage Wyoming small businesses to meet best practices in cybersecurity through a home-grown program called Made Safe in Wyoming™.  The competition has gained national and international attention being the only of its kind and in February of 2022, winning a Gula Tech Foundation Award to expand its program in 2023. CyberWyoming recently announced this expansion and is looking for local economic development agencies who want to house a Cybersecurity Business Counselor. 

“We wanted to encourage traditional economic development agencies to incorporate security and information protection into their member offerings, so we used the Gula Tech Grant to incentivize them to train a staff member with our program,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming.

Baker said the goal of the program expansion is to raise business community awareness by installing local cybersecurity business counselors that can help with security planning and programs, then encourage connection with other companies and organizations locally to fill the holes. Those economic development agencies interested in expanding their services with the Made Safe/Competition Program should contact Baker at info@cyberwyoming.org or 307.314.2188.

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