Author: Annabelle Klosterman

Earlier this month, I attended the 2021 Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) conference. The WiCyS Conference was a 3-day event held in Denver, Colorado. It was full of keynotes, workshops, presentations, networking, career opportunities, and so much more. It had over 1300 attendees which included students, professionals, volunteers, sponsors, recruiters, veterans, and more.

At the conference, there were two to three keynotes a day and breakout sessions/workshops. Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, the founder of CybHER, kicked off the Thursday evening keynote by discussing how failure is a critical component to success. Dr. Arica Kulm, the Director of Digital Forensics Services at Dakota State University (DSU), presented her framework for identifying host-based artifacts in dark web investigations.

DSU students with CybHER Co-Founder Dr. Pam Rowland

I obtained some hands-on experience by participating in Marcelle Lee’s workshop on thinking like a hacker which grew my red and blue team skills. Amanda Buchanan from Raytheon opened attendees’ eyes by showcasing how cybersecurity plays a role in the aviation field. She touched on various vulnerabilities and challenges that come along with keeping an aircraft safe. One of my favorite presentations was by Allison Wikoff from IBM on her research on an adversarial threat group operation.

DSU’s table at the Career Fair

Other than presentations and workshops, the conference consisted of a career village which provided attendees with the opportunity to practice their interviewing skills, refine their resumes, obtain career advice, and more. There was also a career fair with industrial and government organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Snapchat, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and more. I was able to spend a couple of hours at DSU’s table where I spoke to attendees about DSU’s graduate programs as well as CybHER’s outreach activities.

CTF Competition Award

The conference also featured students’ research as well as hosted a Capture the Flag (CTF) competition for attendees. Lisa McKee and Alexis VanderWilt from DSU were both highlighted as two of the 25 student research posters. Lisa was awarded the runner-up in the Graduate Student Poster submission with her privacy research. WiCyS’s CTF Competition consisted of challenges with categories in reverse engineering, binary exploitation, cryptography, web development, and more. Among 200+ competitors, I ended up placing 1st and won a paid registration to next year’s WiCyS conference among other prizes.

Above all, the conference provided a lot of opportunities to meet and network with others. The WiCyS conference had various small group meetups that were organized by conference organizers as well as attendees. I met up with fellow DOD/SFS scholars, WiCyS Training scholars, DSU alumni/students, and more.

The 2021 WiCyS conference was a valuable experience for me. I was able to learn and meet so many amazing individuals. The organizers and volunteers helped make the conference a huge success. I am thankful to the WiCyS and CybHER organizations for providing me with the opportunity to attend this wonderful conference. I am looking forward to attending next year’s conference.