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Information Technology Services

Boston Conference on Cyber Security

03/06/17
Kevin Powers
Kevin Powers

By EagleTech Amanda Callahan ‘20

On March 8, the Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy and Governance Program and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will host the first Boston Conference on Cyber Security (BCCS 2017) here at Boston College. This is a one-day conference featuring lectures and panel discussions focusing on real life cyber and national security experiences as well as sponsors’ exhibitions and networking opportunities. The keynote speaker was recently announced: FBI Director, James B. Comey.  The BCCS began with Kevin Powers, founding director of the Master of Cybersecurity Policy and Governance Program at the Woods College, and Special Agent Kevin Swindon, FBI Boston Division.

He studied education, then began teaching at the Naval Academy in 2002. He later left to work with the Department of Justice while teaching at BU and Northeastern.

In 2014, Powers reached out to Father Burns at BC and began teaching a law course. Powers held a passion for cyber security and its increasing risks and dangers, and joined an academic task force at BC to explore the development of a cybersecurity degree program. Powers did not stop there and continued to draw on relationships with colleagues who worked in private industries, law firms, the National Grid, the FBI, NSA, and the Department of Defense. Through those relationships, the guidance of Father Burns, and the support of ITS leaders, Mike Bourque and Dave Escalante, he was able to create a curriculum that led to the founding of the Boston College Woods College Master of Cybersecurity Policy and Governance Program.

This program has about 55 students with an average age of 36 who come from backgrounds ranging from FBI agents to recent business school graduates. These students are learning from the experts in this field and coming out to varying job opportunities as there is currently 0% unemployment. Powers is passionate about his work and wanted to grow the knowledge of the serious risks of cyber security which led to the creation of the BCCS.

The BCCS was inspired by the International Conference on Cyber Security held in New York each year at Fordham. Powers reached out to Kevin Swinden, a FBI special agent specializing in cyber security. The two became friends at one of President Obama’s speaking engagements in February 2015. Swinden was the guest speaker at the launch event for the Woods School Program. Powers asked the FBI if Director Comey would speak, not really expecting that he would, and is very excited about the event.

Powers feels the BCCS as well as the importance of education about cyber security is important for students, even if they feel it is not relatable. Powers said, “It does impact you, it impacts everyone.”

People need to be more conscious about what they keep on their iPhones and their laptops. Many people leave their medical info, bank accounts, or even their social security numbers on their devices and think they are safe because they are password protected. Powers says that is not the case. “The biggest issue facing students is that they don’t appreciate the risk to their personal and financial information when they use their iPhones and laptops,” said Powers. Many students are thinking more about efficiency than identifying risks and thinking about their own security.

He thinks students should ask themselves if they “really need all that information on your phone?” It’s important to identify the risk and beware. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a framework around certain buzzwords: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. Powers warns people to be aware of the risks and continue to grow their knowledge about the ever-growing concerns about cyber security.

This year’s BCCS event is sold out, but Powers plans to continue to grow his program as well as cyber security awareness as a whole. He believes it is important to build advocates and critical thinkers, don’t just hide behind a computer, and stay tuned for more events and information from Powers and his program, starting with an event in April, The Digital Criminal: Cyber Crime Trends and Enforcement.