WIN building

WIN, 4955 Bullis Farm Road, will host the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s first Cybersecurity and Technology Conference on Thursday.

Drawing interest beyond computer system experts, a new Eau Claire conference also has business leaders signing up to learn more about securing their company’s technology.

The brainchild of Phil Swiler, the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s membership development director, the first Cybersecurity and Technology Conference will be Thursday at local fiber optic network company WIN, 4955 Bullis Farm Road.

“I think curiosity of this event has had a lot of people sign up who I wouldn’t have thought of,” Swiler said. “It’s really a cross section of people who are curious about the buzzword ‘cybersecurity.’”

Those who registered to attend do include IT professionals, but also people from regional telecommunications companies, mid-sized banks and other businesses, he said.

The event will be 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., featuring a keynote speaker, nine breakout sessions and a networking lunch.

Michael Pynch and Jeff Olejnik of accounting and consulting firm Wipfli will open the day with their keynote speech, “It’s an exciting time to be in business.” They will highlight innovations in technology that help business get products out faster, improve customer service and reach more people. They’ll also discuss challenges of cybersecurity and keeping up with regulations involving technology.

Attendees will then have their choice of three groups of three different presentations during the rest of the conference. Topics of those sessions include wireless network hacking, video surveillance, cyber insurance, ransom ware threats and data visualization.

Jay Brown, print security expert for St. Cloud, Minn.-based Marco Technologies, will lead a session on the security vulnerabilities of office printers.

“Printers are an area that is often overlooked,” he said.

That’s made them a target for hackers who find printers that don’t have strong security and install software on them. They can then gain access to other parts of a company’s network or trick the printer into sending copies of documents to another computer, potentially giving access to a company’s confidential information.

Brown’s presentation is intended to help attendees of varying familiarity with technology learn how to properly configure their printers to ensure they are secure.

Sessions at the conference are intended to be for people with beginning to intermediate experience with business technology, Swiler said.

All guest speakers also are required to keep their presentations to information and advice, but to not include a sales pitch for their products.

“This conference is designed to educate,” he said. “This is not a sales conference to sell IT.”

However, the 10 sponsors of the event will be allowed to showcase their products in an exhibitors hall outside of the classrooms used for the presentations.

As the former Eau Claire campus for Globe University, Swiler said the WIN building was a good setting for the small conference. The building still has several classrooms, a large conference room for the keynote address and plenty of parking.

Being a first-time event, the conference limited attendance to 84 people, but Swiler hopes it will prove popular enough to return in a future year and grow larger.

Nearly all of the seats for the conference were taken even before Swiler announced the guest speakers and topics of their presentations last week.

“That’s telling to me,” he said. “All these people have signed up based on the summary of the event, the date and time of the event.”

Swiler surveyed chamber members last year about potential interest in a cybersecurity and technology conference. Out of the 220 responses, half were highly interested, which was enough to make Swiler start planning a small conference.

Sponsorships for it sold out within a week, and 17 people filled out applications for the nine different workshops.

“Something tells me there is definitely a need for this type of education in the community,” Swiler said.

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