Cyber horizon changes with funding, innovation

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The cyber landscape shifted again in 2018. Colorado Senate Bill 18-086 injected much-needed public funding for cybersecurity, the National Cybersecurity Center launched an array of training programs and research initiatives, and c-Watch kicked off its first official cohort.

Blockchain bill

When Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 086 into law at the end of May, money started flowing for Colorado’s sweeping and much-anticipated cybersecurity plans.

SB 18-086  “Cyber Coding Cryptology for State Records” is the bipartisan bill that funds the requirements of 2016’s House Bill 1453, which created the Governor’s Cybersecurity Council and the National Cybersecurity Center.

Also known as the “blockchain bill,” SB 086 aims to make Colorado an early adopter of the revolutionary technology, spur research into uses for blockchain in state government, and support education, training and workforce development in Colorado Springs.

It allocated $2.8 million in annual funding to UCCS, $1 million of which is earmarked each year for the National Cybersecurity Center.

Cyber at UCCS

UCCS Vice Chancellor Martin Wood said the bill’s funding “allows us to really jumpstart a lot of these things that we’ve wanted to do,” including a nationwide search for a director of cybersecurity programs. Richard White was hired to the position Nov. 1.

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UCCS is pursuing a mission to build a “nationally acclaimed cybersecurity program at UCCS,” White said via email, “and in so doing we expect to help both the state and nation.”

The priorities, he said, are to invest SB 086 funds in workforce development and research and development, and to allocate funding in ways that earn the best return on taxpayers’ cybersecurity investment.

White is working with UCCS’ schools and colleges to expand the quantity and quality of graduates and cybersecurity programs, and to make R&D investments in basic, applied and developmental research to eliminate cyber vulnerability.

UCCS will also:

• Create new BS and BA degrees in cybersecurity to support articulation with two-year colleges (articulation creates pathways between two or more colleges or universities and their academic programs);

• Offer more cybersecurity certificate and professional programs through the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and College of Business (Information Systems);

• Provide more online content and seminars through the School of Public Affairs and its Public Safety Initiative;

• Incorporate cybersecurity certification training where appropriate; and

• Create programs in accordance with Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and NIST National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) guidelines.

White has met with partners and potential partners to discuss outfitting offices, classrooms and labs in the cybersecurity facility on North Nevada Avenue; developing programs and agreements to help students with two-year degrees complete a four-year cybersecurity degree at UCCS; joint venture programs with the NCC; and expanding the research role of the Mountain West Cybersecurity Consortium.

From SB 086 funding, the college awarded $91,000 in scholarships for the fall semester, including 18 graduate and 67 undergraduate scholarships.

National Cybersecurity Center

The NCC moved into its new facility on North Nevada Avenue in January 2018, and started making its own key hires when the SB-086 funding came in. Jonathan Steenland, the new chief operating officer, previously served as principal of CISO services with Zyston and as Fujitsu’s first chief security officer in the Americas.

The NCC hired as its director of development Erin Miller, formerly director of the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization at Catalyst Campus, and is actively seeking to hire a marketing manager.

Even before the money started moving, the NCC launched a range of groundbreaking training programs, including Blockchain 101 and Blockchain 102; Cyber for Executives; Cyber Careers: What Parents, Teachers and Counselors Should Know; capture the flag events and AFA CyberCamp. The NCC also helped launch sudoCYBER, the nation’s first cybersecurity Career and Technical Student Organization, in conjunction with Colorado Springs School District 11, and doubled attendance at its second Cyber Symposium, held in October.

They’re all part of the NCC’s first strategic initiative — Training, Awareness and Policy, or TAP.

The second strategic initiative is the Advanced Security Innovation Center. Through ASIC, the NCC is working (in a partnership with Tusk Montgomery Philanthropies) on a pioneering program evaluating new election technologies to create secure and accessible voting — mobile voting in particular.

As a third strategic initiative, the NCC is working on a cyber fusion center that would bring government, education and industry together for collaborative efforts to build best practices and standards guidance.

Exponential Impact

The NCC also is planning improvements to the 93,000 square foot facility on North Nevada — space it will share with tech accelerator Exponential Impact.

This month, Exponential Impact became one of only two Colorado-based organizations awarded i6 grant funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. XI received $750,000 to continue developing entrepreneurial programs focused on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

“Talk about a feather in the cap to get that,” said Vance Brown, CEO of the National Cybersecurity Center. “And talk about a feather in the cap for the whole ecosystem, that our innovation and acceleration for entrepreneurs and security technologies just took a big, big boost.”

c-Watch

Also in 2018, Springs-based nonprofit Cyber Resilience Institute launched the cyber workforce program c-Watch — a radically different approach to cybersecurity training.

The first official c-Watch cohort kicked off in April, using sport to help train cybersecurity experts experienced in information-sharing environments. For their capstone project in July, c-Watch students did critical cyber threat intelligence work in the pop-up security operations center for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

‘Incredible momentum’

Brown looks back at 2018 as “a year of incredible momentum” when the biggest headaches stemmed from unknowns related to public funding the NCC needed.

“Overall I’d say it’s pretty amazing all we accomplished with limited resources,” he said. “Now with additional resources we’re going to ride that trajectory and continue to grow and provide a lot of good programs for our members and for society at large.”

As for the future?

“The board’s biggest concern is probably are we taking on too much,” Brown said. “I just never want to be blamed for taking on too little. It’s too big of a problem to take too little — we’ve got to continue to be aggressive. Think of what we accomplished with so little. Think about how small our resources were at the beginning of 2018: maybe three full-time people.

“If you see what we’ve accomplished with so little — I want to make sure that the public and private sectors who are supporting us feel like we are incredible stewards and that their investment in this organization is one of the best investments you can imagine. And for a cause — there’s no greater cause anywhere.”