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  • Writer's pictureGreater Cheyenne Chamber

The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce won a Microsoft TechSpark Grant with CyberWyoming

The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and CyberWyoming partnered to win a Microsoft TechSpark Grant and provide local cyber risk advice to area businesses. That grant was awarded on March 7.

The idea for the collaboration started forming in October when Patrick Wolfinbarger and Laura Baker, Co-Founders of CyberWyoming and Dennis Ellis, Microsoft TechSpark Manager, met with Stephanie Meisner-Maggard of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce to discuss an idea to build Wyoming’s cybersecurity awareness level.

“The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce is always looking for ways to provide businesses with resources. With the modernization of FE Warren being around the corner, it is vital for businesses to focus their attention on cybersecurity. CyberWyoming’s Made Safe program is a great solution that we have decided to integrate into our Business Accreditation Program,” said Meisner.

The scope of the project is to increase small business cybersecurity advocacy, education, awareness, and adoption of best practices in the Cheyenne community by training a cybersecurity business counselor (CBC) who will assist businesses and reside in the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. According to the Cybersecurity Small Businesses by Paulsen in 2016, nearly half of cybercrimes are targeted at small to medium sized businesses. Yet the 2016 CSID/Experian’s Small Business Security Report states that 51% of small businesses are not allocating any budget to cyber risk mitigations, so it is clear that there is a gap between need and adoption of cybersecurity best practices.

“Our research tells us that this gap is strongly affected by the soft skills aspects of technology decision making,” said Baker.

“It is important to note that this CBC [cybersecurity business counselor] will not be offering IT or IT related services, but instead helping the business manager build a cyber team including an IT professional, insurance agent, accountant, an attorney, and the Chamber,” said Wolfinbarger. “The CBC will be trained to empower the business owner to become a cyber leader in their company.”

The Made Safe in Wyoming process is a philosophy and technique that helps build constructive relationships and support networks while emphasizing individual strengths of the business. It builds trust and addresses the psychological distortions of decision making. As the program gains momentum, each business owner that completes the process has the potential and will be encouraged to become a mentor to another peer within the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce network, thus increasing the community, relationships, and trusting nature of the cybersecurity community.

One of the major psychological distortions business owners face is the lack of trust between non-technical business owners and technical professionals. Studies show that non-technical business owners would rather ask a peer for technical information than a professional (Aquisiti, 2004). As the program gains momentum, each business owner that completes the process has the potential and will be encouraged to become a mentor to another peer within the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce network.

The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce has merged the Made Safe in Wyoming Program with the Chamber’s Business Accreditation Program and the grant projections expect that 60 businesses will learn to protect themselves within the first year of the program. The program will begin this summer; however, the community is already being built with the formation of a cybersecurity committee for business owners to ask questions.

“We are able to thoroughly strengthen program offerings through the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce with the expertise of our area business professionals. We plan to do the same with this program,” expressed Meisner. “We are formulating a committee of IT and business professionals who can help navigate businesses through the necessary steps to achieve cybersecure best practices. They will work through our Chamber Liaison Alexandra Farkas, Communications & Operations Specialist or our Director of Partner Services, Justin Gorman. The intent is to provide greater Cheyenne businesses access to a support team to help achieve cybersecurity goals.”

“Cyber threats are constant… Building a strong community that shares awareness practices and provides outside assistance when necessary is the best way to be prepared to defend against these continually moving targets,” said David Powell, Vice Chairman of CyberUSA.

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