FBI & KU Cybersecurity Conference 2024 Recap

The University of Kansas hosted the second annual FBI & KU Cybersecurity Conference on Thursday, April 4, at KU’s Memorial Union. The conference brought together experts in the field of cybersecurity from around the country and highlighted the most up-to-date practices, research, and information in cybersecurity, as well as the FBI’s latest analysis of the threats we face in cyberspace. 

Key Speakers that headlined the conference include FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, U.S. Senator for Kansas Jerry Moran, KU Chancellor Douglas A. Girod, Bernard Global Chief Executive Officer Steven Bernard and Director of KU’s Institute for Information Sciences Perry Alexander. 

In addition to keynote presentations from Wray and Bernard, the morning session of the conference featured a panel discussion on cybersecurity insight from startups and research with Alexander, Cloudflare Chief Security Officer Grant Bourzikas, Invary Chief Executive Officer Jason Rogers and Tenfold Security Chief Operating Officer Aaron Weissenfluh. The panel was moderated by Tricia Bergman, associate vice chancellor of the KU Office for Economic Development, who had prepared questions for the panel and invited questions from the audience. 

Key takeaways from the discussion included insights such as there being a lot of trivial cyber attacks still occurring (Bourzikas), the importance of establishing a verified understanding of who one is talking to on the other side of cyber communications (Alexander), simplifying and automating the security apparatus so that everyone in an organization understands and can adhere (Weissenfluh), and that collaboration with researchers and vendors is key to maintaining secure networks (Rogers). 

Regarding the research side of cybersecurity work, Alexander stressed the importance of developing systems and products that eventually end up being used effectively in the marketplace. “I enjoy publishing papers, and I certainly enjoy helping students graduate,” said Alexander, “but the gold standard is developing software and products that people will use.” 

A question from the audience for the panel had to do with Quantum Computing and any perceived security risks that might be present that could breach technology such as cryptocurrency. According to Alexander, there is negligible risk. “Most - in fact nearly all - security breaches stem from the most common behaviors, such as sharing passwords or not keeping up with security patches,” said Alexander. 

Additional conference highlights included several breakout sessions led by researchers, industry executives and veteran FBI agents. Topics ranged from ransomware negotiations to privacy protection to snake malware. Over the lunch break, fifteen graduate students displayed posters demonstrating their ongoing research across myriad technologies and themes for the audience to peruse.  

Three of those poster presentations came from I2S researchers who took home top honors for their work. Mashfiq Rizvee was awarded first prize by voters for his project involving efficient and scalable frameworks for fast human surveillance and verification. Bailey Srimoungchanh, the only participant that presented two separate ongoing projects – one on practical software defense for GPS spoofing on a hobby unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and another on controlling UAVs with sensor spoofing – was awarded second place by voters. Shawn Robertson and Jarett Zeliff teamed up to earn a third-place honor for their work on a secure communication framework for resource constrained contested environments.