Probably the biggest issue on the national security front is cybersecurity. It is my personal belief that the next world war will be waged (if it is not already) digitally. There are scores of examples of not just identity theft and lost personal records, but infrastructure intrusion and breaches of sensitive networks around the world.
So great is the threat – not potential, but real, threat – that the Department of Defense has established a new sub-unified military command – U.S. Cyber Command – and co-located it at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Hear it from then Lt. General (now General) Keith Alexander at the 2009 RSA conference where, in a rare public appearance, he laid out the basics of the threat and how NSA, DHS and others are addressing the threat.
Homeland Security has announced that it will be hiring 1,000 cybersecurity experts in the next three years. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn also addressed the growing need at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month. In his speech, he said “This year marks the 20th year of the World Wide Web. In other words, in terms of cyber security, we’re still in the era of biplanes and dirigibles. We’re still in the dawn of the Information Age. We still have decades of change and challenge ahead of us: Decades of innovations and technologies we can’t even imagine.”
The National Security Agency, the site of the new U.S. Cyber Security Command, will need to hire thousands of people people to populate that command. Although quite a few of those personnel will be military, the civilian workforce part of CYBERCOM will be substantial.
Cybersecurity is a critical necessity for government at every level and every company and individual with a presence on the World Wide Web. The banking industry and other financial organizations have a considerable need for state-of-the-art cybersecurity. In fact, the argument can easily be made that the safety of financial transactions and databases is a matter of national security.
As evidence, the British online version of The Daily Mail published today a post titled “Thousands of online banking customers have accounts emptied by ‘most dangerous trojan virus ever created’ “
Cyber criminals have raided the accounts of thousands of British internet bank customers in one of the most sophisticated attacks of its kind.
The fraudsters used a malicious computer programme that hides on home computers to steal confidential passwords and account details from at least 3,000 people.
The internet security experts M86, who uncovered the scam, estimate that at least £675,000 has been illegally transferred from the UK in the last month – and that the attacks are still continuing.
This is an opportunity for the University of South Carolina and its Innovista research campus to create a center for cybersecurity research, development and analysis on an subject of immense international and technical import. The center would use digital information technologies to find the best means to – legally – access the exponentially-growing wealth of information on the world wide web, including the infamous “hidden web.”
The potential for grants is to be considered as well as contractual agreements from companies such as SAIC, CDC, Blackbaud and more. Senator Graham may be able to assist given his membership on the Armed Services and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. Consider as well Senator DeMint’s membership on Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
In Maryland, “the shortage of job candidates has prompted state officials to craft strategies for creating a capable workforce. Economic development officials hope to step up marketing to lure cyber security companies and workers to Maryland, while educational efforts are being ramped up.”
The federal government plans to pump about $15 million more into cybersecurity initiatives in Maryland. “The lion’s share —$10 million — would go toward launching a National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, as part of an upcoming federal appropriations bill. The center will support the cybersecurity requirements of federal agencies, state and local governments, academia and private businesses, officials said. Separately, the appropriations bill also includes $15 million for NIST to conduct research on emerging cybersecurity technologies and threats.”
The University of Maryland, recognizing cybersecurity as “a growth industry,” is offering bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for the first time and “attracting hundreds of applicants.”
The university created the degree programs with input from industry to provide practical and theoretical training. The bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity will require 120 credits, including 33 credits of coursework in the major, and students can take the courses online or through a combination of online study and on-site instruction. Master’s degrees are available in cybersecurity and cybersecurity policy, each of which will require 36 credits of coursework offered through six six-credit online courses. Students also must complete internship programs.
In May, the Washington Post wrote that a “cybersecurity corridor” is about to blossom between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
George Vradenburg, a former AOL Time Warner executive, is one of the founders of the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative, an organization chaired by the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the D.C. mayor to promote innovation within the region.
He said the demand for cybersecurity reaches far beyond the military into areas like health care and financial infrastructure, so creating a true cybersecurity cluster will mean drawing companies that work in other sectors.
“Every business in America and virtually every person in America who communicates via the Internet needs the benefit of stronger cybersecurity techniques,” he said.
Despite the jump government and defense contractors already have on this “growth industry” along I-95 in Maryland, there’s no reason why it should be limited to that 15 mile stretch.
DoD, Homeland Security, Energy, Commerce, SEC and other agencies are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the nation’s digital information infrastructure and they will do so in partnership with commercial communications enterprises around the country. And these private enterprises will invest their own millions to protect their own financial interests and those of their clients. Among them are companies with a presence in South Carolina; Google, Blackbaud, CSE, Verizon, etc.
The ancillary benefits would be the spin-off for improving the state’s digital environment. Maybe South Carolina can finally have that state-wide wi-fi cloud that will allow farmers to access databases from their pickups in the fields, or give our health care institutions richly faster digital communications.
I believe USC could use Innovista to institute a cyber development center, incorporating digital research, defense, network integrity, broadband and wi-fi, etc. Not only would it contribute to resolving a critical national security problem, but it would create jobs and a high tech workforce.