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Billington CyberSecurity Summit Builds Trust with High-Level Audience Through Content Curation

MADDY RYLEY, MANAGING EDITOR
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CHICAGO — The 15th annual Billington CyberSecurity Summit will take place Sept. 3-6, 2024, in Washington, D.C., bringing together cybersecurity professionals and experts from the public and private sectors for a one-of-a-kind event in the industry. 

With a 20-plus year history in the cybersecurity industry, Billington CyberSecurity has cultivated an impressive sense of trust at its events, as well as a mission-driven business to protect the U.S. from breaches. 

The annual Summit, which was founded following the infamous cyber breach on the Defense Department in 2008, has experienced impressive growth — more than 30% each year — as cybersecurity continues to move from a sideline issue to the forefront of the public conscious.  The Net Promoter Score for the last two summits has been at least 67.

“I figured there was an opportunity to create a public-private dialogue that brought together the public and private sectors to discuss cybersecurity, both on the defensive and the offensive side,” said Tom Billington, CEO and Founder of Billington CyberSecurity. “So, we became a mission-driven business and remain so ever since, focused on that singular vision of securing cyberspace for us and for our allies. The events are one of the few places where the government and private sector come together to build trust, and to discuss cybersecurity in a public setting.” 

The business even tripled in size through COVID. Billington CyberSecurity also launched its first state/local event in March, which sold out, and addressed the way to protect the U.S., cities, localities and critical infrastructure, such as the energy and oil/gas sector and water system.

High-Level Audience

The Billington Team.

Attracting senior level officials from the government and military, along with executives from corporate and small business and leaders in academia, the Billington CyberSecurity Summit fosters a unique dialogue between stakeholders.  

The team also recognized the attendees’ need for smaller group meetings separate from the public Summit, and developed the Leadership Council, which features informal Chatham House Rule breakfasts that are carefully curated and cleared through official channels. These are where senior government and private sector officials address key issues and contribute in a more private setting. 

“The reason these events have really grown is there needs to be a trusted space where all these groups, whether government, industry, academia and our international partners can convene,” Billington said. “There is also great media presence at these events as well. That’s another key element: government has a platform to share their messaging, not only to different groups in attendance, but to the media who then share it more widely.” 

Creating a Trusted Environment 

A large component of the ability to create a trusted environment comes from the clear educational mission of the event itself.  

“Sponsors form the bedrock of what we do and make it all possible,” Billington said. “They’re partners with us. We retain full editorial control and yield great insights by surveying our subject experts at sponsors.” 

Billington said that sponsors enjoy the trade show floor component of the event because they share more detailed company and product information with attendees, but that during the educational sessions they help to inform and educate by participating.  

“It’s a much better way to build trust, which is the bedrock of the way that Washington, D.C. is built. The way that commerce is conducted is about trust, not through direct sales, initially. And so, they like the international component of our summit; we have partnerships with all five eye countries, including Australia and Canada and we have receptions at those two embassies.” 

While the event is not classified, top speakers can review the registration list to see who will be in the audience. Billington CyberSecurity requires that attendees be U.S. citizens or allies, and check IDs and badges for those who enter. 

“It’s that level of speaker and that senior-level engagement — year-round engagement — that really appeals to our customers and to their customers,” Billington said. 

Gen. Paul M. Nakasone who was (r) USA Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Director, National Security Agency; Chief, Central Security Service, being interviewed by Dave Levy, Vice President, Global Public Sector, AWS.

High-Level Content Curation 

Billington CyberSecurity is very selective when it comes to programming its events. With an in-house team focused on curating education sessions that feature the right speakers talking about the right topics, the event has been deemed “the greatest cyber show on Earth,” by Jen Easterly, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

“The education is very much curated by the team, by our sponsors, by our speakers and by our international experts,” Billington said. “We also survey our attendees in depth. We’re in constant dialogue with our speakers, and we follow the trends that are impacting the industry and our audience.” 

The team also works with multiple advisory boards for input on educational content.

Takeaways from Cybersecurity Industry  

“The MGM cyber breach in 2023 was a wake-up call to Las Vegas and in cities throughout the country, and companies,” Billington said. “And it really should be for the trade show industry; it’s a significant issue and financial burden. I’ve learned it’s very important for companies to develop trusted relationships in advance of a cyber crisis. The last place you want to be sharing a business card with a federal official is during a crisis. Our event is an area where company executives can build trusted relationships with government officials in advance of a crisis.” 

“We all need to find ways to get more proactive when it comes to deterring our adversaries; there are adversaries that are lurking in our digital ecosystem right now that are biding their time and ready to do harm,” Billington said. “More needs to be done to find and throw bad actors out. AI is one of the great game changers of both offensive and defensive cyber operations.” 

Tom Billington, Founder and CEO, Billington CyberSecurity, being given Ukraine’s top cybersecurity award from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

The implications of AI in the cybersecurity world are twofold: AI will help to make defensive systems more robust, but it will also help bad actors create more sophisticated offensive attacks. 

“The offense needs to be successful only once, and defense needs to be successful all the time,” Billington said. “That’s why cyber hygiene is still the best defense against bad actors.” 

Billington describes cyber hygiene as teaching your team not to click on unknown links or websites, using multi-factor authentication and employing a virtual private network when using the Internet at the airport or at an event. 

Reach Tom Billington at tkb@billingtoncybersecurity.com 

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