Chicago Cyber Security Conference Draws Record Attendance as Demand Surges for Cybersecurity Expertise in Illinois

ChiCyberCon, hosted annually by Illinois Tech, drew double the number of attendees this year amid growing appetite for cybersecurity know-how in Chicago

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CHICAGO—April 28, 2021—Hundreds of national cybersecurity experts, industry professionals, and students gathered online this week to ChiCyberCon, Illinois Institute of Technology’s annual cybersecurity conference. 

With President Biden announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to the SolarWinds attack, cybersecurity and defense is now a topic of urgent discussion in offices and boardrooms across the country. 

ChiCyberCon, organized and hosted each year by Chicago’s tech university, Illinois Tech, is a source for researchers, university academics, computing professionals, and upper-level students interested in the techniques, laws, and training initiatives currently being implemented and adapted for secure computing.

The United States Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have designated Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. The university’s Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education (C2SAFE) is at the core of Illinois Tech’s designation.  Additionally, the center is a member of the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Academic Alliance and North American Defense and Security Academic Alliance (NADSAA).

Speakers from U.​S.​ Army Futures Command, U.S. Army Cyber Command, Defense Information Systems Agency, Motorola Solutions, Accenture, and others discussed the latest in cyber threats and defense systems at ChiCyberCon. Hot topics included resilience and recovery of internet and communications connection during disasters, cybersecurity and forensics, malware, data breaches, identity theft, and cyber threats and trends, cyber warfare and cybercrime, and ransomware.

“According to the FBI, ransomware – software that locks and encrypts a victim’s device or data until a ransom is paid to restore access – cost Americans nearly $4.2 billion with 791,790 reported complaints in 2020, up from $275 million just five years ago,” said Fernando C. Tomlinson, a Senior Technical Advisor in U.S. Army Cyber Command. “When you consider the average cost of a ransomware attack is $133,000, an attack can be financially devastating for a small business.”

Along with the growing and serious menace of ransomware, the topic on every speaker’s lips was the urgent need for more people trained in cyber security.

“Think about SolarWinds, fake news, social media hacks –  there’s a need for talent to fill these kinds of jobs,” said Illinois Tech Assistant Professor of Information Technology and Management Maurice Dawson. “In the last two years, approximately 200,000 cybersecurity jobs have been added to the market in the United States, in a total job market of 500,000, with 17,000 of those jobs in Illinois. With a total workforce of 36,000, there is very low unemployment in cybersecurity and greater demand for cybersecurity more than ever in Chicago.” 

ChiCyberCon speakers from Defense Information Systems Agency, U.S. Army Cyber Command and the U.S. Army Futures Command also called for more people to train in cyber defense. 

“Illinois Tech is Chicago’s tech university, and we have a College of Computing with dozens of programs and pathways in cybersecurity, so it’s great to see such a high turnout for a Chicago-based cybersecurity conference,” said Dawson, who is the director of Illinois Tech's Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education (C2SAFE).

A dynamic and growing number of organizations have participated in and contributed to the success of this conference, including AccessData, Argonne National Laboratory, Authentify, the Chicago Police Department, Cisco, CompTIA, Computer Associates, the FBI, Fermilab, Fortinet, Guidance Software, IBM, IEEE, KPMG, Microsoft, Motorola, Sungard, UniForum, X-Ways Forensics, and many others. Speakers and participants continue to represent local, regional, national, and international organizations and universities.

Available for comment

Maurice E Dawson, Illinois Tech Assistant Professor of Information Technology and Management and director of Illinois Tech's Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education (C2SAFE).

About Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is a private, technology-focused research university. Illinois Tech is the only university of its kind in Chicago, and its Chicago location offers students access to the world-class resources of a great global metropolis. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, computing, architecture, business, design, science and human sciences, and law. One of 22 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities, Illinois Tech provides an exceptional education centered on active learning, and its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Illinois Tech uniquely prepares students to succeed in professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit.  Visit iit.edu.

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Petra Kelly
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Illinois Institute of Technology
Phone: 312-567-3132
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pkelly6@iit.edu