FBI & KU Cybersecurity Conference convenes government, industry and education partners to confront growing threats

Students in KU's CyberCorps scholarship program are receiving education and training to be the next generation of cyber defense experts.

LAWRENCE — Rapid advances in technology and an ever-more sophisticated arsenal of cybersecurity threats have created a head-spinning array of challenges that no entity can solve alone. Recognition that partnerships are essential for a safe and secure future drew nearly 400 people to the University of Kansas last week for the inaugural FBI & KU Cybersecurity Conference.

The day-long event brought together members of the military, law enforcement, business, government and education communities to identify current issues, predict future challenges, and strengthen relationships.

“Cybersecurity is arguably one of the most consequential issues of our time,” said keynote speaker Robert Brown, executive assistant director of the FBI’s science and technology branch. “But we have the greatest minds in America, and there’s really no problem we can’t solve.”

Attendees heard about problems ranging from ransomware attacks destroying small businesses or completely stopping essential food supply chains for days, to global malware campaigns waged by foreign governments that cause billions of dollars in damages, to cyber theft rings intent on stealing business and national security secrets. Panelists shared strategies for addressing these and other issues through research, innovation and collaboration, and for ensuring the U.S. creates a pipeline of future cybersecurity professionals.

KU researchers make significant contributions to regional and national cybersecurity efforts, with activity focused primarily in the Institute for Information Sciences, led by Perry Alexander, the AT&T Foundation Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. I2S is home to the Science of Security Lablet, one of six established nationwide by the National Security Agency, as well as research groups like the High Assurance & Secure Systems Center and the interdisciplinary Center for Cyber-Social Dynamics.

“KU has invested in staff and facilities to position us to be a leader in cybersecurity,” said Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor, in her opening remarks. “We can’t accomplish our mission without strong partnerships like the ones on display today.”

Based on demand, KU plans for this to be the first of a regular series of similar conferences.