Shantel Anderson, co-owner of Star Awards and Promos in Laramie, the first retailer to earn the designation of Made Safe in Wyoming.
Photo: Patrick L. Wolfinbarger
A series featuring up-and-coming innovations born or growing up in Wyoming
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Laura Baker and Patrick Wolfinbarger have been to many cybersecurity symposiums, conferences and workshops around the country and noticed they all seemed to employ a similar tactic: fear.
“They use statistics and anecdotes to scare business owners into implementing better cybersecurity practices,” Baker said. “The problem is, people get overwhelmed by that and they freeze up, which has the opposite effect. We think scaring the heck out of them really doesn’t make sense.”
Instead, when Baker and Wolfinbarger started the nonprofit CyberWyoming in 2017, they aimed to empower people and make cybersecurity more approachable – fun, even – to average small- to medium-size businesses.
The free-to-enter contest pairs entrants with a Cybersecurity Business Counselor to work on a couple of cybersecurity issues each month. The counselors will work step-by-step with businesses, at a comfortable, manageable pace, while empowering the business owner to take the lead. They’ll work on things like password management, working with an insurance agent, establishing best practices to avoid phishing scams and much more.
Baker, who has a background in technology as well as mental health, said the counselors are selected and trained to use the “soft skills” that are often lacking in other such technical conversations. That focus on the importance of language, communication and networking are what set CyberWyoming apart.
“There tends to be a sort of language barrier between the ‘techy’ IT people and small business owners,” Baker said.
On August 31, the contest participants submit a report on how far they have come for judging. Any businesses that complete the program can display the Made Safe in Wyoming logo – and sleep better at night, Wolfinbarger added – and the businesses judged to have improved the most receive significant additional PR and recognition, including a speaking engagement at the Wyoming Business Report’s Cybersecurity Symposium.
Last year, the contest’s first, six companies completed the contest.
First Federal Bank and Trust in Sheridan won first place. Judges said it “stood out for thoroughness, awareness of the complexity of cybersecurity issues, and its understanding that basic cybersecurity starts with well-trained employees at all levels.”
The bank was also praised for its willingness to mentor other businesses in the community via a cybersecurity committee in partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce in Sheridan.
Language I/O, a software development company, and Windhosting, a home-based web hosting company, tied for second place.
Baker and Wolfinbarger hope to have 30 entries this year from across the state.
Besides making Wyoming more secure, Baker and Wolfinbarger’s goal is to have a positive economic impact on the state.
“Small businesses that suffer some sort of data breach often can’t recover from that,” Wolfinbarger said. “We want to keep that from happening and help keep those businesses up and running.”
In addition to running the contest and working with businesses, CyberWyoming partners with schools, city/county governments and other nonprofits to bolster their online security.
“Our vision is to make Wyoming the most cybersecure state in the nation, and to have everybody know it,” Baker said. “The economic development impact that could make is significant.”