Cyber security conference turns internet into battleground

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Cyber security isn't just some topic the government or big banks needs to worry about. Hackers are now eyeing small, local businesses and individuals, hoping to profit off peoples' false sense of security. 

Tuesday, experts from around the country came to the Tampa Convention Center to share what they know and to help people train for whatever's next. The goal of the Cyber Security Conference, hosted by the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2) at USF, was to prepare for anything.

Think of all the ways you're connected: computers, smartphones, TVs, cars and appliances. To hackers, those are all bulls eyes.

"Ransomware; You click on a link and all of a sudden, they own your laptop, all your banking data, all your personal e-mails. You have to pay to get your laptop back," said William Dunn, President of Metova CyberCENTS.

The Convention Center transformed into a battleground. In one room, university and military teams guarded their networks. In another room, hackers waged war. Each team represented a person or a business vulnerable to an attack that could cost them everything.

"This helps them recognize what real traffic looks like, what attacks look like," said Dunn. "You lose your computer today, it's not just your Facebook account."

The resounding theme at the Cybersecurity Conference: hackers threaten us all.

"We must the have same abhorrence to cyber weapons as chemical weapons," said Art Coviello, Jr., who recently retired as executive chairman of RSA, The Security Division of EMC.

"It's the new warfare that we are in and it doesn't take a world power to enter the cyber realm. One person with access to the internet can be a cyber warrior," said Lt. Col. Gray Johnson, Chief Information Officer of the Florida National Guard.

One of the Florida National Guard's most powerful weapons isn't firing bullets. It's firing data. It's a large Cyber Security truck used from Pensacola to Homestead.

"The people who are running the range would sit in this part of the truck here and they would firing off the attacks from this location and outside of this location, we would have different laptops and computers that the users would be using to try to defend," said Sgt. Justin Watts.

All of this training prepares them for battle. It helps them protect their intelligence while they protect you. With a growing number of threats, the business of cyber security is booming. This conference is one way to recruit new cyber defenders.

"I think the unemployment rate in cyber is about 1%," Dunn said. "We are trying to get the students engaged like we are now and say, there are jobs for you here."

October is actually National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:
-Don't click on unfamiliar links in your inbox.
-Don't send confidential information via e-mail.
-Make strong passwords and change them regularly.
-And, be careful on public WiFi. Avoid logging into important things like your bank account because other people could be watching.