Posted: Oct 11, 2019

Just under 400 attendees representing government, industry cybersecurity professionals and students met at Bismarck State College Oct. 2 and 3 for the 2nd Annual CyberCon conference. 

On Wednesday, the conference featured keynote speaker Brian Levine from the U.S. Justice Department, followed by breakout sessions with CIO Shawn Riley and security team member Lucas Pippenger as well as other federal and private sector industry leaders.  


“Given the state’s focus on cybersecurity and critical infrastructure, from an operational and educational perspective, this conference is an excellent opportunity to share knowledge, glean insights, learn about the threat landscape and ultimately enhance our ability to protect data and infrastructure,” said Tony Aukland, Conference Chair and NDIT/NDSLIC Security Analyst. 

With the 2019 theme again focusing on cybersecurity and critical infrastructure, the breadth of presenters and topics included timely insights from Derek Bernier with ND BCI, Ryan Meinecke with the FBI Minneapolis office, Kierk Sanderlin with CheckPoint Software and Williston High School teacher Amanda Skinner, who led a team of students in the state’s first year participating in the SANS Girls Go CyberStart program. The WHS Cyber Coyotes team won a $500 cash prize for their high school for their participation, and were also recognized by Gov. Burgum

During his panel discussion, CIO Riley emphasized the strides made by North Dakota with regards to Senate Bill 2110, the “One State, One Cybersecurity” bill signed into law in April. He spoke about the significantly enhanced capabilities the state can provide for the 7 branches of government when approaching cybersecurity with a unified, singular approach.  

Day two’s agenda included keynote speakers Colorado CISO Debbi Blythe and Colorado DOT Director Mike Willis on a ransomware attack against the state DOT in 2018, resulting in the first nationwide EMAC related to a cyber event.  Breakout sessions covered Counter UAS, Red Team Deep Dive, CISA Protections, DarkwebIED Indicators and more. 

Fadi Fadhil, the recently appointed chief information officer for the city of Minneapolis, presented a powerful presentation on “Mideast to Midwest,” describing his journey as an Iraqi citizen serving as an interpreter for troops in Baghdad from 2003 – 2005, to his current role as a government leader and cybersecurity expert. The day ended with global cybersecurity leader Palo Alto Networks, and Brittany Ash from special team Unit 42 discussing the threat landscape. CIO Riley spoke at Palo Alto Network’s Federal Ignite conference in Washington, D.C. this week, where Gov. Doug Burgum also participated in a keynote fireside chat with Palo Alto Networks executives. Topics included North Dakota’s innovative, statewide cybersecurity education and training efforts with the award-winning K-20W Initiative, and the “One State, One Cybersecurity” approach. 

“We’re transforming how government approaches investment and management of critical IT infrastructure, including cybersecurity, through partnerships and transformative efforts to ensure the highest level of safeguards for our citizens’ and our state’s information,” said Riley. “The CyberCon lineup once again illustrates the vastly changing cyber threat landscape, and our commitment to leading the nation with a ‘whole-of-government’ approach.”