2016: Centering on cyber in the Springs

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At the beginning of 2016, the cybersecurity industry continues to move at a rapid pace — integrating with space and satellite research and increasing the need for government agencies to partner with private industries working day-to-day on cybersecurity.

And Colorado Springs is in the thick of the activity.

Local cyber experts say there is a need for unity in the cybersecurity community — bringing different perspectives and solutions together to create more jobs and aerospace advancements and to aggressively combat network threats.

The cybersecurity industry is being targeted by leaders in Colorado Springs, and recruited here by important projects in motion at UCCS, Catalyst Campus and U.S. Space Command. Experts say for the new year, partnerships will be crucial to continue to create a strong and central cybersecurity community in the Pikes Peak region.

Challenges ahead

Doug DePeppe, founder of local law firm eosedge Legal and co-creator of  Pikes Peak Cyber Champions, said he sees a growing demand for cybersecurity services, including more cyberlaw advisory services, information sharing and cyber threat intelligence.

“This represents a changed marketplace because network security devices and products have garnered much of the cyber marketplace demand,” he said. “Now a transition to services is likely to emerge.”

Locally, the need to take cybersecurity to the next level will mean bringing together UCCS, the Air Force Academy, Catalyst Campus, the city and the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, said Bob Lally, co-founder of the national nonprofit Cyber Resilience and Pikes Peak Cyber Champions.

Private sector, military and government entities need to work together to ensure workforce development opportunities grow in 2016, Lally said.

“We need to be collaborating so that we don’t just build stand-alones,” he said. “Let’s make sure that across the Pikes Peak region, we play off each other’s strengths.”

Lally said we must tackle the question: How do we effectively align individuals’ expertise and resumés with employers’ needs and job descriptions?

“We need to close the gap,” he said. “The challenge will be to ensure that the region, from a business perspective, knows  what is going on inside the community and can play out strengths such as producing workforce development opportunities.”

DePeppe said the omnibus spending bill President Obama signed Dec. 18 that contained the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 is a step in the right direction.

“I think the benefits outweigh disadvantages,” he said. “While the federal government will have more access to cyberattack data, that does not mean that everyone’s privacy has now been undermined. Attack data is not the sort of data having privacy interests that some privacy groups assert is now greatly jeopardized. But given the uncontrollable and growing cyberattack threat landscape, this law looks to be a starting point toward improving cybersecurity.”

Government support is vital as the city tackles becoming a national center for cybersecurity research and innovation.

And the Springs is well on its way. The Catalyst Campus received a $750,000 grant from the state for the Cyber and Space Operations Center and has the backing of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Springs Mayor John Suthers, Lally said.

“With the state supporting Colorado Springs as a city to take the lead on cyber is significant,” he said. “The state is paying attention to these efforts concerning economic development, cybersecurity and aerospace advancements.”

New cyber centers

Several efforts are underway to highlight the mix of government and private industry efforts in the cybersecurity realm.

• Cyber and Space Operations Center

As work begins on the new Cyber and Space Operations Center at Catalyst Campus, Kevin O’Neil, CEO of The O’Neil Group Company, said the 10,000-square-foot laboratory will bring new jobs and companies.

“It will bring companies in to test against the environment for satellite and other non-terrestrial devices,” he said. “Colorado Springs companies should grow from the center; however, there is no direct contract tied to it. It’s more of a research-and-development and operational testing lab for satellites.”

The center will feature three labs, but it will require commitments from outside companies before it becomes a reality, according to O’Neil.

“What makes the center the first of its kind is that facilities available today for the most part are school owned-and-operated or governmental,” he said. “This will be a commercial cyber and satellite operations center, open to outside companies. Although there are companies that have commercial operation centers, they don’t open them to other companies to integrate and experiment or test against. Our center at Catalyst Campus will.”

• Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center

In October, operational testing began at Schriever Air Force Base for the new Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, intended to facilitate information-sharing across the national security space enterprise.

The Department of Defense, U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command and the intelligence community are working together on the operation, including about 30 personnel, according to a DoD press release.

The release said that the center’s purpose is to develop, test, validate and integrate new space system tactics, techniques and procedures in space operations and that completion of initial experiments is to wrap up by January 2017.

“It’s really unique,” said Andy Merritt, Chief Defense Industry Officer at the Regional Business Alliance. “It’s not large yet in terms of the number of employees, but it’s outsized in its potential impact for how top-level players look at what is going on in our community.”

Businesses are coming into the region and seeing the business community in a very beneficial light, Merritt said.

“We’re on the brains of a lot of people making key decisions about future programs, funding and resources,” he said. “They’re aware of us as a location for that kind of activity to be discussed, thought out and tested.”

• Air Force Cyber Innovation Center 

Announced last year, the U.S. Air Force Academy hopes to stand up an Air Force Cyber Innovation Center during 2016, working to research and develop cutting-edge technology.

“Again, this is another big development for Colorado Springs because our community is getting the Air Force’s attention, turning to Colorado Springs through the Air Force Academy,” Merritt said.

For the Air Force to achieve its mission with the center, developing new and innovative capabilities, it will be turning to cybersecurity companies throughout the country, Merritt said.

“That will be a military focal point around cyber for us that I think will be a very significant development as it occurs,” he said.

“It will be creating research opportunities, potentially spin off technologies out of what occurs at the center, spin off opportunities for new companies to develop in Colorado Springs or existing companies to be able to take that technology developing at the Academy and commercialize it.”

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