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On Friday, September 9, the Risk Management and Insurance Program at the VCU School of Business teamed up with the Virginia Chapter of the Risk Management Society for a captivating panel discussion about the evolving cybersecurity threat landscape.

The in-person panel event brought together four cybersecurity experts whose work spans the legal, government and energy industries. 

Beth Waller, cybersecurity attorney and chair of the Woods Rogers Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice, acted as panel moderator. She was joined by Christopher Cope, Field Supervisor at the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Sean Stalzer, Director of Cybersecurity at Dominion Energy; and Michael Watson, Chief Information Security Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia at Virginia Information Technologies Agency. 

Waller organized the discussion into three parts, first examining what the cybersecurity threat landscape looks like as a whole in 2022. Stalzer put it bluntly, describing a war raging in cyberspace. “[Cyber criminals] are constantly updating their cyber weapons to try and take down the grid, and we are constantly coming up with new iterations to prevent it from happening,” said Stalzer. “It’s an ongoing battle.”

Watson outlined three common motivations for cyber attacks today: financial, political and cyber espionage. “The three of us up here often end up in scenarios where we’re dealing with that third one, whereas many folks only deal with the first two,” says Watson. “What we’re worried about is disruption to the operations of government, and there are many different ways that can happen, be it transportation-related or regulation-related, for instance.”

“Threats today are becoming more and more sophisticated, and techniques are becoming extremely difficult to circumvent,” said Cope. “It’s a steep hill to climb.”

When discussing incident response following a cyber attack, the panel covered “the good, the bad and the ugly,” as Waller phrased it. 

“It’s crucial in those first few minutes to get intel on the situation so we can understand what we’re dealing with,” said Waller, joking that she throws up the ‘Bat Signal’—a call to Cope—upon first learning of a new cyber event. 

Waller turned the conversation to cyber-resilience, or the ability of an organization to rebuild in the event of a cybersecurity incident. 

“Resilience isn’t a thing, it’s a process,” said Stalzer. “You’re building those layers of defense, you’re building that detection, you’re building that response—all those components of the triangle, and you’re constantly changing and updating them.”

The panel event welcomed more than 100 risk management and insurance professionals, as well as a mix of current VCU Business students. Lester Fellow and Gamma Iota Sigma president Mallory Keck-wilson was in attendance and spoke about her experience in the three-month, paid rotational internship program at FCCI Insurance Group, Markel and Marsh McLennan

“I could not have asked for a more remarkable or educational experience,” said Keck-wilson. “It was truly one of the first of its kind, and the friends and connections I’ve made are simply unparalleled.” 

Dr. Naomi Boyd, dean of the VCU School of Business, also greeted the group, talking about the important relationship she aims to foster between the academic and the business communities.

“I came to VCU to truly change the way we are educating our students in really meaningful ways,” said Boyd. “I want to integrate what is happening in the industry and revolutionize everything that we do, from our curriculum, to our research, to our everyday interactions with our students.”

For more information about VCU Business or the Risk Management and Insurance Program, visit the School of Business website. For a complete list of upcoming events at VCU Business, visit the events page.


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