SW La. fighting back against cybercrimes

More than once, E. J. Lastrapes was told that he would need to leave this area to get the job he wants in cybersecurity. But after attending the 2023 SWLA Cyber Security Summit, he now thinks, maybe not.

This is the third year for the event created and hosted by SWLA Cyber Club in partnership with the local business AOP, a custom network services and business solutions company.

“You know how fast technology changes,” said Brandon Greene, AOP. “These guys are here to keep up with what’s available to help businesses keep data secure.”

The Wednesday and Thursday summit more than doubled over the previous year, bringing together experts, critical insights and cutting trends. The NSA was represented. So was the FBI. The summit is also an opportunity for someone like Lastrapes to seek employment, get up to speed with what’s happening in other regions and find out what employer’s need.

“I just read there is a need for 3.4 million cybersecurity professionals,” Greene said.

SWLA Cyber Security Summit topics included the intersection of AI and cybersecurity, incident response and identity protection.

Greene agreed that the cyber threat hit close to home for a lot of folks throughout Southwest Louisiana in June.

After the Department of Motor Vehicles was hacked, every holder of a Louisiana driver’s license or ID had to decide whether or not to take steps to protect their identities. The DMV cyber attack was not limited to Louisiana, Greene noted. A Russia-linked Clop ransomware gang with a history of targeting file-transfer tools could be the perpetrator. The crime is still under investigation. Software has been updated in Louisiana and other measures have been taken to protect data in the future.

“Unfortunately, a lot of Louisiana small businesses (and individuals) think they are too small or too secluded and hackers aren’t looking for us, but you don’t go duck hunting with a rifle, you go with a shotgun to spray as many bullets as possible and hope you hit something. That’s what hackers do. They’re taking a shotgun approach. Millions and millions of emails go out every day and hackers only need a couple of people to bite. They’re not targeting your business, they are targeting a million similar businesses looking for someone to take the bait.”

“Cyber criminals want your data so they can leverage it and sell it on the black market,” said Jerry Gaspard, Global Data Systems, a full-service managed IT company.

The social media revolution is just one thing that has changed the “attack surface” for the bad guys, according to Gaspard. “So many people are putting so much more data out there. You see a Facebook quiz that promises to nail your personality type, and you take it.”

The game of securing information is growing so rapidly, everyone is late to it, he said.

“That’s why we need to scale up rapidly, to take the measures needed to protect data,” Gaspard said. “Think of it as an arms race. The first step, always, is to understand what those risks are. Once we get past the point where a firm learns how to lock the doors, the next step is to understand how to keep the door locked as the threats grow.”

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