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CyberMaryland 2014 AG1
University of Maryland, Baltimore County students (from left to right) Nathan Cline, Rachel Cohen and Randi Williams participate in a panel discussion, moderated by UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski (right) at the CyberMaryland 2014 conference on Wednesday. The students talked about what attracted them to the field of cybersecurity and the challenges in training the future workforce. (The Daily Record/Alissa Gulin)

CyberMaryland 2014: ‘Security is never going out of style’

It took Peter Bloom 12 minutes to print off multiple copies of his house key using a 3D printer.

And on Wednesday morning — much to the dismay of his wife, he said — he offered to hand the keys out to audience members at the CyberMaryland 2014 conference in Baltimore. They work perfectly, he assured the crowd.

Why would Bloom, an advisory director of investment firm General Atlantic LLC, be talking about keys and physical security at a conference dedicated to protecting information online?

As the keynote speaker, Bloom used the keys to illustrate his point that the marriage of the physical world with the digital world — such as using electronic systems to remotely lock your front door or turn on the lights — creates the potential for new kinds of cyber attacks.

Businesses, governments and individuals must be vigilant, Bloom said, because hackers can attack critical online networks in creative ways. And just because Maryland is making great strides in the cybersecurity arena, as told by countless speakers at the conference, Bloom said the state and country as a whole are still just scratching the surface.

Bloom compared the current cybersecurity industry to a World War I fighter pilot. That is to say, just as the fighter pilot only had his eyes to scan for enemy planes, cybersecurity professionals do not yet have enough tools or expertise to achieve “advanced situational awareness” of incoming attacks.

But Bloom’s message was not one of doom-and-gloom, despite a heavy emphasis on recent headline-grabbing cyber attacks and the vulnerabilities that persist at major companies and government organizations. He stressed that cybersecurity is a growth industry if ever there were one, and dared attendees to meet the challenge.

The fourth annual CyberMaryland conference, held Wednesday and Thursday at the Baltimore Convention Center, features a who’s who roster of cybersecurity leaders from industry, academia and government.

In breakout sessions, panelists explored topics ranging from the technical (how to prevent cyber attacks over radio frequencies) to the practical (how to choose the best cybersecurity product for your business).

Several sessions focused on the role of universities in advancing Maryland’s dominance in cybersecurity, including how to recruit the best talent for STEM careers and how to accelerate research commercialization.

While most sessions were led by established experts in their field, one of the day’s most popular sessions featured panelists who were likely not old enough to order a beer.

Three students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County spoke to a standing-room-only audience about what attracted them to cybersecurity, the long hours they spend on schoolwork, how universities could diversify STEM-related enrollment and what they expect from a career in cybersecurity.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski moderated the panel. He had audience members laughing, participating and — in the case of several high school students in the back — whispering excitedly.

For 17-year-old Olaoluwakitan Bamisaiye, a student in the STEM magnet program at North County High School in Glen Burnie, the conference was an opportunity to envision what his future might look like if he pursues cybersecurity as a career.

“The way things were before, security was the last thing people thought of when they were designing a product or a service, but now, everyone wants to make sure their systems are secure from the beginning,” Bamisaiye said. “Security is never going to go out of style.”


About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.