Ed Rios, an Air Force veteran with both cybersecurity and startup experience, has been named CEO of the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs.
A statewide effort, the center will focus on research and development, rapid response and education for business and government officials.
Rios moved to Colorado Springs 14 years ago to work with Air Force Space Command. After retiring, he started a local firm, CyberSpace Operations Consulting.
He joined the Air Force after college, starting off in missiles He also commanded a ship for two years and was deployed for three combat tours.He received a fellowship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while still on active duty.
Recently, he answered questions about his new position and the role he hopes it will play in the local cybersecurity realm and on the national stage.
What attracted you to the job?
There are a couple of reasons. I’m engaged in cybersecurity and the cyber community and I want to use my years of experience to move forward in those areas both locally and nationally. We’re under significant threat as people want to gain our intellectual property, access to our financial institutions — other countries, people who are cybercriminals. I want to do my part.
What will happen with Cyber-Space Operations Consulting?
I will spend the next couple of months on a transition plan, but it will remain operational. We’re going to reorganize the company so I can focus on leading the National Cybersecurity Center.
Why do you differentiate between cyber and cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is just the industry itself. There are cybersecurity companies focused on the technology of providing safe operations in the cyber realm. But if you have a smartphone, if you bank online, if you have a credit card, you’re engaging in cyber.
What else do you think is needed?
The NCC has three pillars: rapid response, the cyber institute and the cyber research and education center. There’s a growing awareness that the training should extend to other areas — cyber economics, cyber psychology, cyber anthropology. We need to understand not just how to protect the networks, but the ways they can be used against us. If we engage the social sciences, then we can figure out ways to respond more efficiently and effectively. We need to use all the tools available — and to do that, we need to understand not only how to protect networks, but also to try to anticipate ways that they’ll be used for criminal activity.
What are goals in your first year?
My first year, we’re going to get businesses and other actors together to develop a meaningful plan for all aspects. We’re going to partner with Denver and Colorado Springs, what I call the Cybersecurity Corridor, and we’re going to bring the entity to fruition using those partnerships. We have to find revenue sources beyond the first year to continue to grow and develop the center.
What’s your biggest challenge?
We’re creating a startup and then taking it to a full-fledged corporation. That brings all the challenges of any startup. Support is the biggest challenge. My vision is to create a cybersecurity center that provides expertise for everyone. And you can’t do that with one or two people. We have to find ways to legitimately move forward.
How does your experience help?
With CyberSpace Operations Consulting, I created a successful startup here. And it’s not my first one. I’ve worked with startups in the nonprofit sector as well. I’m involved with the National Cyber Exchange, another local cybersecurity nonprofit.
And my experience in government and the military is an asset because I understand how both work. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked for startups, nonprofits, for government and for military. Having experience from all those sectors gives me the ability to build coalitions with various initiatives, create great talent and bring people together with a willingness to work hard.
The cyber research and education center is really well-established. We’ve had our first event and have a couple more planned for November.
We’re still working on the rapid response side. We plan to stand that up Nov. 1, with real-time information about attacks given to us directly from the Department of Homeland Security. From there, we’ll grow more. I’m just unsure of the timeline.