On June 4, 2013, Georgia-Cumberland Academy (GCA) technology director Ernest Staats, along with the help of student worker Eric Claus, was one of the hosts at Nebraska’s 2013 Cyber Security Conference held at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Neb. This is the fifth year Staats has been invited to present at the annual conference.
Staats, one of several cyber security professionals that presented, held a hands-on workshop for the attendees while also presenting on topics such as cyber security vulnerabilities, how hackers work, hacker prevention, and real-life application. Staats provided equipment for the workshops including laptops and software for each attendee to use. Claus co-presented with Staats and also ran live demonstrations while Staats assisted those following along in the audience. During some of the live demonstrations, they pointed out security vulnerabilities in the Nebraska government’s website and fixed them on the spot for the audience to see.
Some of the other presenters included security professionals from IBM and the FBI. About half of those attending included state, school, criminal justice, and business security employees from Nebraska as well as security employees from Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Colorado. Since Staats’ first year hosting in 2009, the attendance has grown from 15 to 35, and an additional six who were unable to participate in the workshops due to equipment shortage.
“The IT security realm is pretty small, but it’s a hot button on almost everyone’s list,” Staats said. “It’s something that continues to grow and more people are trying to get the resources they can."
In 2009, Staats got a call from an acquaintance who was helping organize the cyber security conference that year. One of the presenters cancelled last minute, and they needed someone to fill in. Although Staats was an unknown presenter, they were so impressed that they’ve asked him to return every year since. The first year, he simply presented. However, the idea to turn sessions into hands-on labs soon came forward, and the following year it was implemented. Since then, he has had a student worker accompany him to the conferences to help set up equipment, run software, present, and assist with the live demonstrations.
Staats has presented security seminars many times for Adventist conferences, schools, and the North American Division. He also hosted a cyber security conference at GCA for higher-education schools such as Berry College and Kennesaw State University.
Written by Shana Michalek, Communication intern