By Deena Wicker, Oct. 25, 2022
Cal Poly Pomona’s annual Cybersecurity and Awareness Fair returned Oct. 20 with workshops and presentations open to all interested in the cyber world.
This year’s theme, “A Brave New World of Cybersecurity,” focused on promoting gender diversification and the development of female leaders in the industry.
“When you’re open-minded and you’re passionate about what you do, you just develop the skills you need to be successful in that new role,” said Diane Miller, an executive in residence for cybersecurity and CPP alumna.
Miller led a keynote presentation of women in the field with several examples of relationships between non-tech fields and cybersecurity. Similarly to her peers, Miller believes in the value of integration between cybersecurity and other industries.
Some of the fair’s demonstrations, such as “Protecting Journalists,” asserted the interdisciplinary relevance of cybersecurity. Many of the event’s presenters spoke on the study’s diversity and the countless opportunities that come with it.
“(Internet) is a part of everybody’s life every day,” said Miller. “When you think about the intersection of cyber with healthcare and communications and transportation — it’s so ubiquitous.”
This year’s CSAF contained 17 speakers and a full agenda of various activities attended by hundreds of middle school, high school and undergraduate students. The event covered diverse field topics such as ATM vulnerabilities, multifactor authentication and how to protect one’s digital privacy in the face of corporations and government.
The agenda ran all day, allowing students to view and vote on posters written on current cybersecurity affairs or participate in hybrid presentations and reoccurring workshops until the end of the event. The appeal to visiting students is often the hands-on demonstrations like this year’s lockpicking and radiofrequency searching.
For undergraduates, the fair is a chance to familiarize themselves with industry experts and aspects of the field they did not recognize before.
According to computer information systems student Axel Luna, these opportunities are great exposure for students at multiple levels, whether they are just beginning to understand the basics of cybersecurity or building a network to strengthen their future in the industry.
“You keep trying and that same company could see you again, and that you improved a lot on your resume,” Luna said.
For 18 years, CPP’s lead IT security analyst Chris Laasch has upheld his commitment to cyber awareness and student success.
Laasch coordinated the event in 2004 as an alternative to the Defcon convention in Las Vegas, one of the world’s most popular security and hacking conventions, as a struggling student unable to spare the time and resources to attend it. Now, with the help of about 150 people, Laasch spends most of each year planning the next fair to ensure a fruitful experience for its attendees.
“I have been surrounded by, or blessed, by a lot of people in our office that are helping me to take care of things,” Laasch said. “I rely on a bunch of student assistants and coworkers that are part of the committee right now.”
Laasch has maintained the event’s recurrence to the benefit of its usual participants, though he counts on extending the fair beyond its bounds to the technology community to spread the significance of cybersecurity in all fields.
According to Laasch, advertising the event to students of unrelated majors has been difficult, but the team remains hopeful of connecting with those who do not have immediate knowledge or access to security resources they need.
“The event is for everyone, it’s actually targeted for people who know nothing about security,” said Laasch. “That’s our goal — that’s why we say cybersecurity and awareness.”
Feature image by Deena Wicker
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