Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Colorado Springs would be home to a national cybersecurity research and development center.
Last month, the Catalyst Campus announced that it received a $750,000 grant to work on cybersecurity for space and satellite systems.
And last spring, the U.S. Air Force Academy announced it was seeking partners to build a cyber innovation center.
All the pieces are in place to make Colorado Springs the headquarters for national efforts — partnerships between UCCS and the U.S. Army Reserve, agreements with the Western Cyber Exchange and the Department of Homeland Security and new membership organizations like the Pikes Peak Cyber Champions.
Cybersecurity is a $75 billion industry, and the need for advancement in the industry is clear. The criminals using the networks aren’t limited by national boundaries and are seldom curtailed through traditional methods. According to some sources, there are more than 1 million malware threats released every single day — software that threatens education, telecommunications, manufacturing, financial services and energy/utilities networks.
It’s not just good economic development policy for the city to embrace cybersecurity — it makes sense globally to end the breaches that cost money and steal personal and professional information.
It’s estimated that the state needs 6,000 more workers with experience in computer networking and cybersecurity to meet the needs of the growing industry sector. The Springs is doing its part.
The city ranks in the top 10 nationwide for companies involved in cybersecurity and is in the top five for jobs in the industry. The city is poised to lead the nation in protecting network security.
But some experts will tell you we’ve started late, and must rush to catch up. By combining efforts and reducing silos, the city can finally have the brand it’s sought: cybersecurity center of excellence.
There’s governmental support at the state and local levels, business organizations are planning summits around the industry and the federal government is taking notice of activity in the Pikes Peak region.
So what’s missing?
Collaboration: All 80 cybersecurity companies must work in concert with each other to share information and prevent attacks. The time is ripe for universities to collaborate with private industries, for government to partner with schools. Information about threats, attacks and how to thwart them need to be readily shared throughout the community — as well as methods for attracting and training a skilled workforce in cybersecurity.
Innovation: The city needs to attract the right mix of professionals with the needed skills to move cybersecurity from defensive mode to an offensive stance. Efforts can’t be business-as-usual, particularly for slow-moving government bureaucracies. The move must be toward research and development and toward disruptive innovation.
With the governor’s announcement, nearly all the key pieces are in place for the city to become a cybersecurity center — looked at by other states and cities as the place to turn to combat cyber attacks and protect networks. It’s now up to business leaders, organizations, companies, universities and nonprofits to come together to meet the challenge and create the kind of atmosphere where innovation and collaboration thrive.