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Cybersecurity conference draws hundreds to San Juan College

Experts say proactively monitoring online accounts is best practice

Megan Petersen
Farmington Daily Times
Keynote speaker Richard Hammer, a research and development scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, gives a presentation on how to harden your online identity on Wednesday during the CyberCon 2018 conference at San Juan College in Farmington.
  • More than 500 people, including 179 adults and 339 students, participated in the two-day event.
  • CyberCon's keynote speakers were a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist and an FBI intelligence analyst from Albuquerque.
  • The San Juan College president says there are 40,000 unfilled positions throughout the nation in the industry.

FARMINGTON — Some 500 people learned important 21st century lessons “at somebody else’s expense” this week during the third annual CyberCon at San Juan College.

Matthew Henderson, an FBI intelligence analyst who was the cybersecurity conference’s lunch keynote speaker, told Wednesday’s opening-day audience that the main reason why participants could learn about cybersecurity and about how to avoid being vulnerable online was because of successful hacks.

“If you’ve gained something from this presentation today, you’re learning it at somebody else’s expense, really, because people lost money or people were victimized,” Henderson said. “… Hopefully, you don’t know any company or individual that’s been victimized by what we’ve been talking about, but that sort of information helps us understand what’s going on and what we need to focus on.”

Nearly 520 people — including 179 adults, and 339 middle and high school students, according to Kathi Hail of San Juan College's Center of Workforce Development, which organized the event — attended CyberCon Wednesday and today. The event detailed ways to manage risks in personal and professional accounts, to prevent cybersecurity breaches and to “harden your identity,” which was the topic of the conference's morning keynote address.

Richard Hammer, a research and development scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, presented tips regarding protecting online identity and assets, saying one of the best things someone could do to prevent cyber security breaches is to be proactive.

Participants in the third annual CyberCon event at San Juan College in Farmington listen to an address by keynote speaker Richard Hammer  on Wednesday.

“What I’m urging you to do is not be afraid … that you’re compromised,” Hammer said. “I urge you to use the technology to protect yourself and your children, then you can stop it immediately.”

Hammer advised closely monitoring lines of credit and financial accounts, keeping passwords and accounts secure by using password security vaults and multi-factor authentication, and avoiding “mindlessly clicking” links or storing account information in auto-fill programs.

The two-day conference also featured a youth day for middle school and high school students today. Participants learned about cyber bullying and social media, as well as potential job opportunities, which San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass said are plentiful.

Keynote speaker Richard Hammer urges conference participants to use technology to protect themselves and their children during Wednesday's CyberCon 2018 conference at San Juan College in Farmington.

“Throughout the world, there is a shortage of about 2 million jobs in cybersecurity,” Pendergrass said during opening remarks. “Here in the United States, just this year, there is a shortage of 40,000 jobs. That’s not how many jobs there are — that’s how many are not filled.”

Dante Stevens, a freshman at Piedra Vista High School who attended the CyberCon today, said it was important to learn about cybersecurity.

“(It’s important) to know how to protect and be safe in what information you’re putting out there,” Stevens said.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.