App State Cyber Summit provides intersection of community and industry with an eye on new business threats

According to Warren Buffett, “In today's business world, it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” 

Lowe’s Companies’ Chief Information Security Officer Marc Varner quoted Mr. Buffett, one of the most successful investors in the world, as he opened Appalachian State University’s Cyber Summit, held on campus Thursday, October 20.

Nearly 300 participants learned from Varner how protecting an organization's most important asset – its brand – is a role they must take seriously in today’s interconnected world.

Varner set the stage for how business fundamentals remain, but new threats have emerged.


You can never be fully secure, just very prepared

Jim Guido, EVP of Engineering for HighPoint, said of cyber threats, “You can never be fully secure, just very prepared.” Guido shared that protection, detection, and response are critical for corporations of every size.

Sobering facts were central to the conversation at the day-long event as speakers and participants alike put their heads together with experts and aspiring leaders in the field of Cyber Security.

The university’s second Cyber Summit also covered the latest trends and topics of interest and provided a learning and networking opportunity, all in support for App State students in the Department of Computer Information Systems (CIS). 

Engaging state and regional professionals

The attendees met in the Grandview Ballroom, an event space overlooking fall leaves and the iconic Kidd Brewer Stadium, where the Mountaineers play football. It is a setting that draws experts to the High Country of North Carolina, a region that is a destination sought out, rather than happened upon.


“In only its second year, the Cyber Summit has quickly become one of the preeminent cyber security events in the North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia tri-state area,” said CIS Advisory Board Chair Steve Stone. The board advises the CIS department on industry trends that may influence programming needs.

Samantha Williams, an App State staff member who coordinated the summit added, “Last year, despite COVID mandates, the 2021 Cyber Summit drew more than 130 attendees, and we more than doubled our registrations this year. There is a major need for this programming.”

In addition to Varner and Guido, the industry professionals who spoke included:

  • Elliott Johnson, Veracode Principal Solutions Architect
  • Fletus Poston, CrashPlan Senior Security Operations Manager, and CIS Advisory Board member
  • Aaron Rose, Check Point Cyber Security Evangelist
  • Doug Sept, Palo Alto Networks Systems Engineer
  • Martin Strasburger, Duke Energy Chief Information Security Officer
  • Doug Cassle, SentinelOne Technology Strategist
  • Sushila Nair, NTT Data VP Security Services
  • Mike Gorman, NetFoundry Founder and CEO
  • Tommy Todd, Code42 Vice President of Security

"It was great to see the high level of networking among our industry and student attendees at this year's event,” said CIS Department Chair Scott Hunsinger. 

Dr. Hunsinger credited Williams and members of the CIS Advisory Board with drawing attendees to the event from top organizations from across the country.

The full-day event also provided industry professionals 7.2 Continuing Professional Education — CPE — credits.

The attendees weren’t the only ones who stood to earn. All proceeds – more than $49,000 – will fund scholarships for high-achieving students with financial need.

Impact of student scholarships

“Funds raised from last year's inaugural event were used to provide an unprecedented number of scholarships to App State students majoring in CIS for the 2022-2023 academic year,” said Williams. “Guided by the CIS Advisory Board, proceeds from this year's event will once again fund scholarships for our rising star students.”

Past recipients said their scholarships made a big impact on their lives. "My scholarship enables me to put my best foot forward in the classroom and fully focus on my studies rather than worrying about paying tuition," said senior CIS and supply chain management double major Bennett Gungor. "This scholarship gives me encouragement, drive, and purpose," added senior CIS major Peyton Cline.

Williams said that of the nearly 300 attendees, 82 were App State students who received admission to the event at no cost to them. The remainder of the attendees were representatives from approximately 100 companies and organizations. Williams said that, in addition to conference registrations, funding for the scholarships came from 19 sponsoring organizations, including Lowe's Companies, HighPoint, TrendMicro/ txOne networks, NTT Data, Duke Energy, Check Point, Code42, NetFoundry, SentinelOne, Palo Alto Networks, Optiv/Veracode, Infusion Points, RSM, ExtraHop, CNP Technologies, Trellix, HuntSource, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company,  and TEK Systems.


Business leaders of tomorrow at Appalachian today

Gungor, Cline, and students like them will “hit the ground running” after graduation, as managing cybersecurity is a fast-growing field. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for information security analysts is expected to increase by 31% over the next decade. App State offers a concentration and minor in Cyber Security, meeting the business needs exposed by increasingly common breaches into corporate and institutional computer systems.

App State students majoring and minoring in CIS gain valuable professional skills and capabilities, enabling them to pursue a wide variety of technology-related careers. CIS majors may declare a cybersecurity concentration and prepare with courses like Managing Security, Audit Analytics, Blockchain for Business, Ethics & Privacy, and Ethical Hacking & Countermeasures. Students may also earn a minor in cybersecurity. Learn more at

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App State Cyber Summit provides intersection of community and industry with an eye on new business threats
Published: Nov 7, 2022 4:33pm