Unlocking the Potential: Cybersecurity as the Key to West Virginia’s Future and Global Influence

MORGANTOWN – The Columbia natural gas pipeline was temporarily shut down by a ransomware attack on May 7, 2021.

During the seventh annual Focus Forward symposium, organized by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, a group of panelists discussed the ever-present vulnerability of our computer systems and the implications of the recent cyberattack.

The panel, titled “Our Biggest Threat: Cybersecurity at Work and at School,” highlighted the dangers of ransomware attacks. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency defines ransomware as a form of malware that encrypts files on a device, making them unusable until a ransom is paid for decryption.

Karen Evans, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, emphasized that small to medium businesses are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks due to their lack of resources to defend against them. She mentioned that attackers can easily purchase ransomware on the lucrative market.

Josh Brunty, coach of Marshall University’s Cybersecurity Team, stressed the need for more cybersecurity experts and the establishment of cyber academies in schools to engage and educate students early on in the field.

Gen. James Hoyer, WVU’s vice president for Economic Innovation, discussed the role of technology in exacerbating societal issues such as divisiveness and complacency, making the country vulnerable to external threats. He emphasized the importance of teaching students civil discourse and collaboration to address these challenges effectively.

Highlighting the importance of cybersecurity initiatives, Hoyer mentioned the establishment of a National Center of Excellence for Cybersecurity in Critical Infrastructure in West Virginia in partnership with Marshall University and WVU.

In conclusion, the panelists emphasized the critical need for improved cybersecurity measures and education to safeguard our digital infrastructure and national security.

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