Colorado Springs poised to be cyber capital

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Three weeks ago,  I received a letter from Experian, the credit bureau. It seems their system was compromised and cyber thieves took my personal information — driver’s license number, Social Security number, bank accounts, address — pretty much everything they needed to steal my identity and wreck my credit. Experian was very apologetic and offered me free identity protection for two years.

Last week, the letter came from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management. Again, cyber thieves targeted the office and stole personnel files of millions of former workers. The criminals now had access to all the same information — drivers license and Social Security numbers, address, phone number. There was a twist, because I worked as a defense contractor at the U.S. Air Force Academy for nearly two years, they also had my fingerprints.

And there’s not much I can do about it — other than pay a credit-monitoring organization and take Experian up on its offer. It’s disconcerting to know that private information isn’t as secure as we think.

Cyber crime is a thriving industry, played on the shadowy Darknet. And always, it seems, staying one step ahead of technology designed to stop it. The criminals take advantage of national borders, working off servers in countries with fewer regulations and weaker  means of stopping the crimes.

Cyber security is largely a cat-and-mouse chase between criminals and the experts chasing them. As soon as one security measure is put in place, cyber thieves find another way to grab sensitive information and sell it to the highest bidder.

There are brilliant people waging this cyber war — and it’s an emerging industry, full of possibilities for startups, researchers, government agencies and established companies. What’s needed is a public-private partnership, geared toward working together to make sure the best technology is getting to the marketplace, the best people are trained to fight cyber crime and the military and government play a role in cybersecurity even in the private sector.

And that’s where Colorado Springs could have a distinct advantage, says a group called the Pikes Peak Cyber Champions.

The new organization, started by Doug DePeppe — who has an international reputation in the cyber realm, has served as a Department of Homeland Security cyber attorney and is co-founder of the national nonprofit Cyber Resilience — and retired Navy Capt. Bob Lally, believes Colorado Springs could be the cybersecurity capital of the United States.  Lally has extensive military service, including serving as commodore during Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

They’re bringing in heavyweights, those thought leaders who can make a real difference in the city and work together to bring new business, expand existing ones and transfer needed technology from the research lab to the commercial sector. They want to engage the entire community to create a powerful force to fight cyber crime.

It’s no easy task. Cyber crime is a profitable industry — but so is fighting it. Companies stand to lose more than just cash when networks are compromised, they stand to lose their credibility and their customers. Businesses spend billions fighting hackers to keep them from entering their networks.

It’s a perfect time to start this initiative, with more federal and state attention focused on fighting cyber crime than ever before. It’s a problem shared by government and the private sector, and it’s one that can be solved together.

The Springs must play a role in the solution. The city is home to businesses who thrive in the cyber realms, big defense giants like Boeing, Vectrus and Lockheed Martin. It has scores of retired soldiers and Airmen who have worked to defend the nation’s networks — and have the necessary experience to work in the private sector. It’s home to UCCS, which is partnering with the Army National Guard on cyber initiatives, and the Air Force Academy, which is working with Intel Corp. and the Department of Homeland Security to create cutting-edge technology to fight malware through its Center of Innovation.

There is no shortage of bright minds working on this problem, and in the coming months the Colorado Springs Business Journal will bring you the ideas, thoughts, issues and connections to position the Springs as a cyber leader. The two leaders are seeking to create a Community Cyber project, a concept that embraces the factors of risk and opportunity associated with cyberspace. Community Cyber is the connection that the local group will use to help Colorado Springs engage in and pursue outcome-related activities. To be a part of the Pikes Peak Cyber Champions, email DePeppe at doug@eosedgelegal.com or Lally at robertlally@msn.com.

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