Posted on 22 Jan 2019 7:13 AM

An enthusiastic Diane M. Janosek high-fived cybersecurity educators and stopped to pose for pictures as she greeted the crowd on July 26 in Orlando.

The keynote speaker for the inaugural Centers of Academic Excellence Southeast Cybersecurity Conference felt inspired by the sight of dozens of educators collaborating for the betterment of their region.

"The community in the Southeast of the United States is pivotal to the economic prosperity of the region and national defense of our country,” said Janosek, Provost and Deputy Commandant for the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic School. “This region is truly going to become the strong cyber coast. It's going to be the go-to location for businesses and academia and government, where they all want to partner and thrive. Kudos to the entire (Southeast) team for creating a strong economy that leverages the support of everybody at the event."

Janosek lauded the Southeast for setting a precedent as the first to host a CAE regional conference. The University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity organized the SECC with the support of the NSA and Department of Homeland Security. UWF serves as the Center of Academic Excellence Regional Resource Center for the Southeast. About 50 cybersecurity education experts from across the Southeast networked at the two-day conference in the Orlando Renaissance at SeaWorld.

"I've met so many cybersecurity professionals from across the region and established relationships that will help improve all of our efforts," said Michael Constantino, information security awareness and education coordinator at the University of Central Florida. "Conferences and events like SECC offer us access to the collective knowledge of our field, and we can leverage this to be more successful than if we were operating independently. Having this supportive environment in which everyone shares their secrets of success is invaluable.

Educators presented at 16 workshops divided up between two rooms. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity scheduled 10- to 15-minute breaks between each session to encourage participants to collaborate. 

“It was a relaxed setting that promoted a conversational exchange of ideas among the professionals,” said Sharon Johnson, principal research engineer at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. “It would be an excellent idea to continue the conversation throughout the year. You can solve bigger problems when working together than you can when working alone.”

The workshop topics included behavioral cybersecurity education, integrating cryptography into security curriculum, community outreach, mobile digital forensics and the value of cybersecurity competitions.

Steven G. Welson, instructor of computer science at Augusta University, cited workshops presented by Dr. Yesem Kurt Peker, assistant professor at Columbus State University, Frank Katz, assistant professor at Georgia Southern University, and Dr. Nathan Fisk, assistant professor at the University of South Florida, as his favorites at the SECC.

"What I really appreciated was the curriculum development and course development sessions," Welson said. "They were talking about specific things that we can look at to incorporate into our courses."

Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, UWF Center for Cybersecurity director, and server administrators Steven Bazzell and Chad Rankin demonstrated the Florida Cyber Range at one of the workshops and at a birds-of-a-feather session. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity and Metova CyberCENTS partnered to create the state-of-the-art hands-on training platform.

The UWF Center for Cybersecurity used the Florida Cyber Range in training sessions with election officials and state agency personnel through partnerships with the Florida Department of State and Florida Agency for State Technology. Janosek commended the UWF Center for Cybersecurity for “being forward thinking” in partnering with state agencies to improve cyber resiliency in Florida.