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The Upshot: CactusCon 2019

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Why Go?

Last weekend, a fellow colleague of mine at Acronis SCS and I had the opportunity to attend Arizona’s premier security conference, CactusCon, in neighboring Mesa. The annual event, which began in 2012 and is now the largest conference of its kind in the state, has made a name for itself with a focus on helping the greater Phoenix area grow as a tech hub.

With that in mind, it was clear from this year’s conference that CactusCon’s organizers understand just how critical it is for Arizona to also grow its skilled cybersecurity talent pool – a responsibility our company takes very seriously as well and has begun to address via our new Acronis SCSVets initiative.

This year’s CactusCon was geared toward expanding that talent pool and ensuring hiring agencies have access to qualified candidates. The organizers even put on a separate event for younger generations, called CactusCon Kids, that provided cybersecurity exposure via soldering labs, coding, lock picking, and other hands-on trainings and workshops.

2019 Highlights: Info Sharing & Hands-On Learning

Events like CactusCon and DEFCON, held every year in Las Vegas, highlight the particular need for better information sharing and lifelong learning amongst practitioners within the cybersecurity industry. As such, this year’s CactusCon panels covered diverse topics, ranging from cryptography pitfalls, cyberespionage, and mental health within the industry, including how to avoid burnout.

Each year, CactusCon also includes a Capture the Flag (CTF) event as part of its larger conference, and this year was no exception. Hosted by OpenSOC, this year’s CTF carried on that worthwhile tradition by exposing security professionals to new cyberattack vectors and detection methods through interactions with both instructors and fellow peers. The event was both challenging for the participating hackers and practical for those of us responsible for stopping attacks within our organizations or writing/enforcing related security policies. The CTF also enabled security analysts working within smaller, less complex environments to get real world practice in larger, more complex ones.

These types of hands-on experiences are critical for getting cybersecurity workforces across industries trained up on the latest and greatest methods, and I, for one, came away with new, actionable knowledge my colleagues and I can start putting to use immediately within our organization.

The Bottom Line

Cybersecurity has become such an important aspect of our daily lives, and the responsibility for strong security can no longer sit with organizations’ security professionals alone. It is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of threats and how criminals can leverage technology against the humans who use it.

This year, CactusCon began pushing the envelope of inviting attendees beyond just the typical security professional, but it is my hope that this practice will become more commonplace at both this conference and others like it moving forward. All users need to care about cybersecurity the same way they care about locking their car or using a home alarm system. CactusCon can – and should – continue leading the way on this front.