The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is teaming up with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Cyber Gym to help small businesses manage and mitigate the risks of cyber threats.
“With the rise in online activity during the pandemic, cybersecurity safeguards are more important than ever. Larger companies can depend on their IT departments, but most small businesses don’t have that luxury, yet they still need to ensure their e-commerce transactions, customer data, and telework practices are secure, said Laura Fine, ASBTDC state director. “Small businesses are used to minimizing risks by protecting their assets with physical security and insurance policies, but they also need to take precautions to minimize their risks and vulnerabilities in the cyberworld.”
The Cyber Gym, an education and simulation model laboratory for cybersecurity learning, will provide an online self-assessment tool for small businesses that will help assess their risk for cyber attacks and provide actionable steps the business owners can take to protect themselves.
Additionally, the Cyber Gym is creating a cybersecurity awareness training series. The online training modules are based on the Department of Defense’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework. UA Little Rock students are developing these resources under the direction of Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the Cyber Gym, and Phillip Huff, assistant professor of computer science.
“We are creating tools and training modules that will help small businesses be aware of cybersecurity threats on their websites and cybersecurity attacks that could impact their businesses,” Leiterman said. “A lot of small businesses are moving more services virtually during the pandemic. We want to help secure their business practices in an online environment, so we are focusing on cybersecurity threats that are pertinent to small businesses and how they could be prevented.”
The modules will cover topics that include controlling access to computer resources, password management, how to sanitize media before disposal, physical access, how to protect network boundaries, and vulnerabilities.
Each module will contain at least one custom “cyber workout” from the Cyber Gym. The hands-on workouts will assess and reinforce the skills and information presented in the training modules and allow participants to apply what they learn.
“Our goal is to increase cybersecurity awareness among Arkansas small business owners and entrepreneurs. The tools and training that the UA Little Rock CyberGym students and staff are developing for us will help us educate small businesses in a creative, effective way. We are delighted to be able to work with a campus partner on this project,” said Fine.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. According to the Federal Communications Commission, theft of digital information has become the most commonly reported fraud. During the coronavirus pandemic, many small businesses have moved their operations online, so they could be vulnerable to digital thieves or hackers.
As an additional way to help small businesses, ASBTDC will also offer a series of live webinars on small business cybersecurity that will begin in 2021. The webinars will be led by Christopher Wright, co-founder of Sullivan Wright Technologies, a security-first IT service provider based in Little Rock. His background in cybersecurity includes securing systems vital to Air Force Space Command, Medicare and Medicaid, Homeland Security, and other government agencies. Wright continued his cybersecurity work with FIS, before going into business for himself.
In the upper right photo, visitors tour the UA Little Rock Cyber Gym, which opened in December 2019. Photo by Ben Krain.