Taylor Construction wins first in small business cybersecurity competition

Courtesy photo 
Parris Crooks, left, and Dawn Connors, right, of Taylor Construction hold the first place banner for Wyoming’s Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses.

PINEDALE – On Sept. 23 at the cybersecurity track of UW’s Blockchain Stampede conference, Taylor Construction was revealed to be the winner of Wyoming’s 2022 Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses in the category of "contracted or consistent volunteer technical help."
While Taylor Construction actually entered the competition in 2021, they didn’t feel they had progressed far enough to submit a 2021 report to be judged. Instead, Dawn Connors CFO and co-owner of Taylor Construction, decided to take a short break and re-enter the contest in 2022.  This year-and-a-half process introduced her to other business owners going through the same program, mentors who had completed the program, and Wyoming-based businesses that provided IT support and solutions.
Connors found the competition through the Wyoming Women’s Business Center’s webinar series where CyberWyoming presented Take the Hook out of Phishing Scams and also explained the competition program.
“In 2021 I found our emails to be the target of phishing scams. My email alone could reach 10 email spoofing or phishing emails a day. I was very nervous that I or one of my team members would believe one of these to be legit, click a link, and our whole system would be exposed to a virus,” said Connors. The webinar is still available at https://www.wyomingwomen.org/training.
“After hearing what I would learn in this competition program, I knew it was just what we needed,” said Connors.
Being in a remote area of Wyoming where even the internet connection was unreliable, Taylor Construction didn’t have access to a technology solutions provider.
“At that time, I honestly didn’t even know what a technology solutions provider actually provided. All I knew was the constant worry I carried about our lack of security,” said Connors.  She was sure that were programs and equipment that must exist to help secure Taylor Construction’s information and communications but she had no idea where to start.
Through the competition, Connors learned the functions of Taylor Construction’s hardware and worked with a third party (Sweetwater Technology Services from Rock Springs) to fill security gaps that were revealed through a careful inventory of the systems used by the company.
“We created an inventory list containing all of the information of our physical components, photos identifying these components, how to access them, and what our preferred settings were,” said Connors.
After the enlightening experience of inventorying Taylor Construction’s systems, CyberWyoming walked Connors through creating policies and procedures including incident response, administrative procedures, insider threats, and a general employee responsibilities policy.
“This has been such a great help to our growing team to have policies written to refer to,” said Connors. The policies and procedures were tested on-the-job when Connors hired a second cyber leader, Parris Crooks, to learn the program and help manage the security stance for Taylor Construction, among Crooks’ other job responsibilities.
During the competition, Taylor Construction met 100 percent of their own security goals and more.  “We now have a program that quarantines nearly all phishing and spoofing emails and our team members have education on how to recognize these threats. I now understand so much more about hardware, software, and what questions to ask,” said Connors. 
The 2022 competition was supported by a grant from Microsoft and the Department of Workforce Services and due to CyberWyoming’s 2022 members and sponsors. For more information about the 2023 Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses visit https://www.cyberwyoming.org/competition.
The competition was developed by CyberWyoming in 2018 to encourage Wyoming small businesses to meet best practices in cybersecurity through a homegrown program called Made Safe in Wyoming™.  The competition has gained national and international attention being the only of its kind and, in February of 2022, won a Gula Tech Foundation Award to expand in 2023. CyberWyoming recently announced this expansion and is looking for local economic development agencies that want to house a Cybersecurity Business Counselor. 
“We wanted to encourage traditional economic development agencies to incorporate security and information protection into their member offerings, so we used the Gula Tech Grant to incentivize them to train a staff member with our program,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming.
Baker said the goal of the program expansion is to raise business community awareness by installing local cybersecurity business counselors that can help with security planning and programs, and then encourage connection with other companies and organizations locally to fill the holes.
Those economic development agencies interested in expanding their services with the Made Safe/Competition Program should contact Baker at [email protected] or 307.314.2188. Taylor Construction is a family owned, small business construction service provider for the oil and gas industry in rural Wyoming and throughout the Mountain West. Their highly skilled and experienced team specializes in pipeline construction, oil & gas gathering infrastructure, well ties, and other upstream and midstream construction services. In addition to serving the oil & gas industry, Taylor also maintains federal and state contracts providing services such as road construction, erosion control and riverbank stabilization. Being a family owned business means the company is an extension of the family and everyone wears a lot of hats. They believe in working with truth, pride, and teamwork. Needless to say, safety is part of Taylor’s culture and Connors wanted cyber safety to be a part of that, so she joined the competition.

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