A science fair, an escape room, interactive badges and 10 new cybersecurity goals are among the offerings at Co-op Cyber Tech 2024, where the focus will be engagement between information technology and operational technology professionals.

NRECA will host its third annual event dedicated to strengthening electric cooperatives' cyber defenses June 11-13 in Arlington, Virginia. There will be three general sessions, four pre-conference workshops and 30 breakout sessions specific to OT, IT and management.

“IT and OT professionals working together build a very strong defense against cyberthreats," said Carter Manucy, NRECA director of cybersecurity. “Co-op Cyber Tech digs into our unique culture of sharing information and resources and collaborating to elevate all co-ops."

A new Cyber Tech Science Fair will showcase cybersecurity innovations and expertise. Display proposal submissions are due April 1. Those selected will receive a complimentary conference registration.

“We are excited about this inaugural science fair that will allow cyber innovators to demonstrate and share their knowledge in a very interactive way with co-ops," said Meredith Miller, NRECA principal data scientist.

The conference will also launch the second level of NRECA's voluntary Co-op Cyber Goals Program with 10 new fundamentals. Co-ops that have achieved the first set since last year's Co-op Cyber Tech in Kansas City, Missouri, will be recognized.

“NRECA's Co-op Cyber Goals not only help electric co-ops set a baseline of defense against cyberthreats but help protect the nation's grid from attack," said Ryan Newlon, NRECA principal for cybersecurity solutions.

Co-op Cyber Tech attendees can put those skills to the test at a tabletop exercise and a physical escape room.

Industry experts and the NRECA Cybersecurity Member Advisory Group will lead a dynamic preconference drill where there is a cyberattack on the fictional “Happy Valley REA." The workshop will involve real-world situations and discussions on incident response and best practices.

For the escape room challenge, teams will be tasked with restoring power on a cold, stormy night after a hacker causes a major blackout. Created by the Idaho National Laboratory and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, the escape room welcomes participants at all levels.

CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales is a keynote speaker, as is investigative reporter Brian Krebs.

Breakouts include an update on NRECA's Research Threat Analysis Center, how to test cyber defenses by setting up a hack, the impact of artificial intelligence on cybersecurity and a workshop on building cybersecurity within IT and OT on a small budget.

And interactions between IT and OT attendees will light up the event—literally. Special badges trimmed with LED lights will come on when participants network.

“A version of 'capture the flag' and cyber challenges to solve will make the connections between these IT and OT experts particularly fun and a memorable for future collaboration on cybersecurity," said Justin Luebbert, NRECA principal for cybersecurity compliance solutions.

The badges are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Event registration is open for in-person or virtual attendance of select online sessions. Early bird registration closes March 29. The event is expected to sell out.