Cybersecurity: What Every Event Prof Needs to Know

Guest Post by Bryce Austin

Everyone wants their conference or event to go off without a hitch, right? You do. Speakers like me do. Your venue does.

But there are those that don’t.

There are those that would prefer things went haywire with your event. The Internet allows these people the opportunity to disrupt your conference without ever stepping foot on-site. It may be as simple as stealing your attendance list so that they can market to the same people you worked so hard to bring together. Of course, there are also the more brazen criminals who may be looking to steal data or content from your event to profit off of your hard work.

So let’s talk about some simple but effective ways to keep these people at bay.

Secure Your Wifi 
Your conference likely has wifi for the attendees. Most do nowadays. It is important to advertise to your attendees what your wifi ID is (such as BestConferenceEver2017) and that no other IDs are used for the conference. It is important to give it a password that isn’t obvious, and remember to keep the password from being available outside of the conference. I have been to several conferences where the wifi password is written in areas where the general public can see it. You need someone checking their smartphone to look for wifi access points that have similar names to yours but are not yours. If you find one, your attendees need to know to not use it, and your conference venue needs to know that someone is trying to disrupt your conference. Think this is a hypothetical problem? Check out what happened at the GOP convention last year.

I have been to several conferences where the wifi password is written in areas where the general public can see it. 

Secure Your Data
We live in the information age, and data is the ultimate prize for cyber-criminals. What data would a thief want from your conference? As mentioned above, your attendee list is one such prize. The slide presentations from your conference is another. Information about upcoming projects that your staff are working on is a third. One of the easiest ways for this data to be stolen is to steal a laptop from your conference. There is an easy solution to keep your data safe: encrypt your hard drives and install a password to log into your computers. For Windows machines, bitlocker is easy and effective (and free if you are using Windows 10 and your laptop has something called a “TPM” chip, which most laptops made in the last 3 years have). For Macs, the feature is also built into the operating system and is easy to turn on. If you have an encryption solution in place, the only loss to your event will be the cost of a replacement laptop.

Do you have a website dedicated to your conference? Good! Consider buying similar website names to protect your website.

Control Your Online Presence
Do you have a website dedicated to your conference? Good! Consider buying similar website names to protect your website. Do you have twitter hashtags for your conference? Good! During the event, many people should be using those hashtags to tell the world about what a great conference you are putting on. Someone needs to watch the trend of your hashtags on Twitter to ensure that they are not being used for purposes other than you intended. I have seen “runaway” examples where a hashtag is grabbed by a disruptive group and has very disparaging things associated with it. If that happens to you, simply drop any advertising of the hashtag to your attendees in announcements, slide decks, etc. as soon as the issue is discovered.

If you follow the steps above, your conference will have a genuine competitive advantage over other groups in the same industry. Above all, stay safe and have fun at your next event!

As a dynamic, motivating technology executive with over 20 years experience in leadership positions, Bryce Austin helps companies set their path to innovate at the speed of today’s market and stay secure while doing so. Connect with Bryce on WSBDirectConnect.com

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