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CenturyLink Hosts Connect & Protect Cybersecurity Summit

By Heather Lee

Cybersecurity. The word alone brings to mind everything from consumer identity theft to crippling national security breaches. And, indeed, it should. Everyone, from business to government to individuals with a digital presence, runs the risk of being breached by hackers.

CenturyLink, a leading provider of cybersecurity products for large business and government customers, recently hosted north Louisiana’s first cybersecurity summit: Connect & Protect - Building the Digital Fortress in the Age of Cyber Threats. The event established north Louisiana and the I-20 corridor as a significant state and national resource for technology and cyber protection.

More than 350 business, government and education representatives from the region filled CenturyLink’s auditorium at its global headquarters in Monroe, La. Attendees ranged from small businesses to the National Guard and some of the state’s largest industry players.

“This was our first effort to address questions our business and government customers were bringing to us,” said CenturyLink’s Senior Vice President of Cyber Engineering and Technology Services Bill Bradley.  “We had no idea how many people to expect, but we reached our capacity limit of attendees quickly and even had to create a 'spill-over room' to house those who wanted to watch the summit on closed circuit television. The response was gratifying, but also was a good indicator of the interest in the topic.” 

The one-day summit focused on trends in cybersecurity and strategies for protection. Two nationally recognized cybersecurity experts, as well as panels staffed by state and national experts, spoke about the need for awareness that the days of anti-virus software being enough to protect data are long gone. The key topics centered around better communication between government and industry, public-private partnerships, digital awareness and resilience as a standard operating practice.

Welcoming remarks were given by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy. Steven Chabinsky, former deputy assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division and current chair of the global data, privacy and cybersecurity practice at the international law firm White & Case, and Dr. Phyllis Schneck, former deputy under secretary for cybersecurity and communications for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate, spoke about cybersecurity policy trends and their long-term implications, as well as the importance of partnerships between security providers, government agencies and individual users. 

Other panelists included representatives from CenturyLink, Louisiana Tech University, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Bossier Parish’s Cyber Innovation Center, the Cybersecurity Research Alliance (CSRA), North Louisiana Economic Partnership, Louisiana State Analytical and Fusion Exchange, USTelecom, AT&T, Entergy and IBM.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told attendees, “We’ve all been exposed to computer viruses and malware, and it’s happening at a growing pace. We need more cybersecurity in every line of work and life. CenturyLink is working to do that as a global company, and we’re working to do that as a state.”

Under Gov. Edwards’ leadership, Louisiana was chosen as one of five pilot states to participate in the National Governors Association (NGA) Cybersecurity Policy Academy. As part of the program, Louisiana will work closely with the NGA cybersecurity staff and corporate partners to develop and enhance the state’s cybersecurity posture. Partnerships like this are how we build the foundation to our digital fortress.

Cybersecurity issues provide a unique opportunity for collaboration and discussion, regardless of industry. The protection of our personal information, business interests, and national security are something we all have in common.  

“CenturyLink’s goal for this summit was to highlight the national importance of the issue and to bring together many diverse customer stakeholders with a variety of well-known cyber experts. The ongoing dialogue, expertise and level of leadership across the various sectors engaged on this topic speak volumes to the interest and critical importance of the issue,” said CenturyLink’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Relations John F. Jones.

“There is clearly a hunger for business and government to collaborate, manage and control the risks to their information and the security of their customers’ data,” said Jones. The overall positive response underscores the desire of many to understand both the risks and the solutions for those risks.”

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