Experts from the FBI, the state of Georgia, Fort Benning U.S. Army base and the private sector will come together for a daylong cybersecurity conference presented by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center April 6.

Cyberstrength 2017 is geared toward small- to medium-sized businesses, particularly those that are vendors for the government or large corporations that are increasingly susceptible to hackers.

“We’re encouraging people to anticipate (being hacked),” said SBDC State Director Allan Adams. “It’s a potential impediment to a lot of firms’ ability to grow if they can’t assure large companies they may supply that they won’t be a security risk.”

The conference in Columbus, Georgia, is the first time that the SBDC has devoted a full day of programming to cybersecurity. The federal government will require vendors that deal with controlled unclassified information to have cybersecurity plans in place starting in December. Major corporations are expected to begin requiring the plans as well.

“If a company is going to do business with the Department of Defense or larger corporations, they’re going to have to develop a plan and implement certain processes,” said Mark Lupo, SBDC area director in Columbus. “That’s going to be significant. We’re trying to bring awareness to expectations on the horizon, like the federal requirement, that businesses need to be thinking about.”

The SBDC already has seen clients who have been victims of ransomware, a computer virus that locks users out of their systems and requires them to pay a ransom to have the stolen data restored, Lupo said.

The cost to attend the conference is $99, and will feature presentations by an FBI cybersecurity expert; Stanton Gatewood, the chief information security officer for the state of Georgia; and Brian Jackson, president and CEO of Abacus IT Solutions in Birmingham, Alabama.

While SBDC consultants are not information technology experts, they can help businesses connect with the experts and help them plan and find financing for cybersecurity programs, Lupo said.

“Our focus is more tailored to helping businesses take a more proactive approach,” Lupo said. “Businesses may see this as a way to increase their market by virtue of having a good plan.”

To learn more about the conference or to register go to www.georgiasbdc.org/cyberstrength/.