CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Local, state, and federal leaders are discussing South Carolina’s cybersecurity defense as the crisis in Ukraine is unfolding.

State leaders, cadets and cybersecurity industry professionals are looking at the strengths and resiliency of South Carolina’s cybersecurity protection while addressing areas where improvements can be made.

Tensions continue to rise hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, prompting leaders here at home to double down on protection.

“If Russia pursues cyber-attacks against our companies, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond,” said President Joe Biden.

Like the president, Governor Henry McMaster says putting an emphasis on increased cybersecurity is important for South Carolina’s businesses and residents.

“This is just as dangerous but it doesn’t involve a bomb,” said Gov. McMaster.

Cyber attacks are a growing threat in foreign countries. Gov. McMaster said the threat to businesses in the state is something that could cripple South Carolina if measures aren’t taken now to prevent cyber attacks.

“In Russia, India, and North Korea, they have a whole industry dedicated to conducting cyber-attacks,” says Governor McMaster.

During a two-day conference at The Citadel, the United States Army Commanding Lt. General Stephen Fogarty of the U.S. Army Cyber Command and other military leaders say growing cybersecurity resiliency and closing the cybersecurity gap is the best protection.

“The attack surface is huge because everybody has a device and the devices and things that we do on the internet is vulnerability,” says Col. Linda Riedel, Deputy Director for the Department of Defense’s Cyber Institute at The Citadel.

The cyberworld is a backbone of South Carolina’s future and remains a top priority among leaders as they keep their eyes on Ukraine.

“Everybody depends on it so we need to have people who understand it and can fix things and can make things and can go on offense as well as go on defense,” says Governor McMaster.

The two-day conference at The Citadel will run a second day on Friday with more presentations and briefings for the group of cadets and industry leaders.