City of San Antonio Economic Development

The Culture of Business

San Antonio, the Cyber Security Hero

The fourth in the film series Die Hard, Live Free or Die Hard with Bruce Willis released in 2007 is a typical shoot ‘em up, blow it all to smithereens style of movie that Die Hard fans have come to love and expect. The amount of chaos and mile high explosions is enough to make any destruction-maniac, or MythBuster-lover swoon. The plot, however, in this film deals directly with a question companies, governments, and citizens around the world alike are all beginning to ask today, “How do we protect ourselves from cybercrime?”  Although this movie is completely fictional, the story about cyber terrorists hacking into computer systems are very real.

Most people know someone or have been directly affected by identity theft.  And it’s estimated that 8.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft with $37billion in losses in 2009. Cyber terrorism unfortunately doesn’t end there.  Cyberwarfare has been formally recognized by the Pentagon, and has called cyberspace the new domain in warfare. Cyberwarfare is a form of information warfare and refers to the act of hacking with the intention of espionage or sabotage. The Lipman Report, a security industry analysis, highlighted several key economic sectors of the U.S. and other nations that are at risk including both private and public domains. Banking, educational, governmental, and manufacturing facilities were all included at risk because of their dependence on computers.

The Pentagon says the protection of cyberspace is just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air and space; however a government cybersecurity specialist, James Gosler estimates that there are only 1,000 qualified people in the country when the number of “cyberwarriors” needed is between 20,000-30,000.

If this post were an action film, and I know, my writing is not half as exciting as the fiery explosions of Die Hard 4.0, but if we did  make this post into a film, San Antonio would be Bruce Willis. Except maybe a friendlier, more animated Bruce Willis with a margarita in hand.  But nevertheless San Antonio would be the hero, the protagonist.  San Antonio, to some may seem an unlikely hero in this tale, but this small-town feel, “Military City, USA” as it’s been known to some, is adopting a new name, “Cyber City, USA.”  Home to the nation’s largest military installation, Joint Base San Antonio has nearly 80,000 Department of Defense personnel, hence the previous name. However, this city’s technology workers are quickly gaining ground, with some 60,000.  More than 20,000 of those tech workers are related to cyber-security.

San Antonio is setting the stage to grow into the national center for cyber security.  With military and cyber roots stemming as far back as 1948 with military intelligence operations at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio is a natural hub for cyber security.  After the attack on September 11, leaders across sectors convened and established what is today Cyber City USA, along with initiatives to place the city at the heart of the nation’s first response for not only cyber operations but emergency and medical operations as well in the event of future catastrophe. Cyber City USA is both a marketing and a networking tool for the city of San Antonio to connect leaders in the industry, and educate the community about its initiatives. There are four key areas that the Cyber City USA is focused on in order to promote and further industry growth:

Community -Creating a cyber-aware public that practices cyber security and supports the growth of San Antonio’s cyber capabilities.

Education – Developing the necessary collaborative environment to insure San Antonio education entities have the essential academic courses and programs to grow a talented cyber workforce.

Government – Enhancing the ability of government and the military to provide for America’s cyber security.

Business – Establishing an environment conducive to the growth of cyber businesses and the development of advanced cyber capabilities.

This is all made possible by both San Antonio’s engaged and supportive municipal and business infrastructure, academic entities as well as the relationships with government on the local, state and federal level.  Three of the academic institutions , Our Lady of the Lake University, University of Texas at San Antonio, and A&M San Antonio, are nationally recognized as Centers of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Along with Cyber City USA, San Antonio also has what’s called the Cyber Innovation and Research Consortium (CIRC),formed with the intention of linking San Antonio‘s well-regarded academic institutions with government, industry, and economic development initiatives to form a potent public-private partnership.  Today the consortium offers over fifty cyber-related degree programs and encompasses students from Pre-k to Ph.Ds. San Antonio is approaching its education for cyber-security systematically by not just building a track to one career, but many career opportunities. San Antonio initiatives are raising the bar in computing, information technology, cyber security and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) holistically.

Stemming from the Cyber Innovation and Research Consortium, in an effort to facilitate the development of cyber security professionals, San Antonio is host to two national cyber defense competitions.  The first hosted by the Center of Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) has been recognized by the House legislature for promoting cyber security curriculum.  Other competitions exist, but the NCCDC is unique in that it is modeled from real-world scenarios and obstacles.  It is designed to test how well students operate and manage a network infrastructure, similar to the networks found in the commercial sector. Teams are assessed based on their ability to detect threats and respond appropriately.  The second competition, CyberPatriot, aimed at high school students was co-founded in 2008 by UTSA and the Air Force Association following in the footsteps of its successful collegiate counterpart.  A San Antonio team in the national finals, held in Washington D.C., in 2011 and 2012 took home 3rd and 1st place respectively.

Both competitions aim to respond to the shortage of qualified professionals by recruiting students while they are young, and educating them through intense training in network security.  These competitions give students the opportunity to network with prominent cyber security professionals and also help to develop a pipeline of young individuals who will one day serve our community by protecting the fifth domain of warfare, cyber space. (James suggested a mention of this)

The Alamo city, as discussed in the previous posts, has the second highest data density in the US, second only to Washington D.C. and the second largest number of Certified Information Systems Security Professionals for all things cyber security, both within government and out.  It is estimated that the economic impact to San Antonio is $10 billion since 2005, and San Antonio’s IT and security sector is growing at an annual rate of 17 percent. Some of San Antonio’s growing information security super stars include Denim Group, GlobalScape, and FaceKey.

Real life is significantly different than most block-buster action flicks. In the movies, almost always, the good guy wins, the damsel in distress is saved, and although there has been billions of dollars worth of destruction all is forgiven and forgotten as the bad guy is handcuffed and sent off to jail.  Unless the movie is a seemingly never ending series like Lord of the Rings there is generally a feeling of relief and satisfaction at the end. Real life, however, isn’t scripted by a screenwriter, and our future is unpredictable. In the cyber world however, two things are known for sure, there will continue to be cyberterrorits in the world and San Antonio will continue to be at the forefront of cybersecurity ready to save the day.

The deadline to register for CyberPatriot VI is October 1, 2013. Coaches can register their teams at here:

To read previous posts on technology in San Antonio, click here for 1, click here for 2.

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