Cyber proponents call for partnership to combat threats

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Benjamin Franklin said nothing was certain in this world except death and taxes. But modern times call for an additional certainty: The nation must respond with increasing frequency and urgency to both natural and manmade disasters.

Recent news stories highlight the fact that threats to security are rampant: mass shootings, natural disasters, cyber threats to commerce, personal identity and vital infrastructure. Experts agree that the nation’s networks are threatened in ways we never before imagined.

As a United States Navy veteran, it’s not lost on me that I’m submitting this article on Dec. 7, “the day that will live in infamy” — the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. To me, it only accentuates the threats and underlines the reality we face: Our networks are under daily attack.

That’s why Pikes Peak Cyber Champions is launching a campaign to gather the city’s thought leaders to align with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers’ vision to create a cybersecurity capital in Colorado Springs.

The goal is to feature the region’s cyber champions — providing insights and expertise on workforce development, cyber risks and challenges, and solutions to cybersecurity concerns.

The campaign starts with leadership and ideas, and will advance to activities aimed at achieving the mayor’s vision for Colorado Springs, as well as the vision of [cut] Gov. John Hickenlooper’s vision for the state.

The Pikes Peak region is already ahead of other cities in cyber culture. The region is home to 72 cyber businesses, according to the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. These companies cover[include? (rather than protect?)] data and support centers, commercial for-profit and nonprofit cyber organizations, cybersecurity military commands, universities designated by the federal government as Centers for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance. The cyber industry in the Springs ranges from the top 50 listed Cyber Security 500 list to startups like CodeBaby.

Too frequently, industry members operate independently, refusing to share information or ideas with other companies involved in cybersecurity. Building trust inside the cyber ecosystem is critical if Colorado Springs is to become a cyber headquarters for the nation.

So how do we establish partnership and trust to become the nation’s leader in cybersecurity? First and foremost, we must develop a Cyber Collaboration and Innovation Center, possibly at Catalyst Campus. The center requires a public-private partnership with the necessary political support, funding and leadership to galvanize the Springs’ economy and create the first steps toward the city becoming a cybersecurity leader.

Creating a local center of innovation will minimize academic research-and-development duplication; connect the Springs as a regional player to national cyber centers; share threat intelligence and workforce development across industries; align local university cyber programs with the job market and allow innovation to prosper. With all the players working together, local industry can adapt to the ever-changing cyber security domain.

As Colorado Springs moves forward in its efforts to become a cyber security center of excellence, it’s critical to align public- and private-sector efforts and develop the partnerships able to address the efforts of cybersecurity criminals that threaten national security, commerce, private identities and public infrastructure.

Bob Lally is co-founder of Pikes Peak Cyber Champions. A decorated combat veteran, his last combat operational tour was as a task force commodore in support of Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Lally also hosts a local radio show at kcmj.org, which focuses on local people and businesses. He can be reached at robertlally@msn.com.

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