MountainWestCyberSecurity-Vance Brown

Three billion dollars were lost in the last three years because of email scams. To make matters worse, there are almost 1.5 million unoccupied cybersecurity jobs in the United States alone.

“The greatest emerging threat facing humanity today is a cyber attack.” Vance Brown, CEO of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) quoted the former director of the CIA, General Petraeus, to set the stage for the Mountain West Cybersecurity Consortium (MWCC).

It’s projected by 2021 there will be a total of six trillion dollars in global cybercrime damages.

This may be a war, but we don’t have enough soldiers to fight it. Data privacy has become a buzzword, and businesses can’t ignore it anymore. With new regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP) coming into play on May 25, 2018, companies are struggling to comply in time. In a survey about GRDP, 43 percent of companies list a lack of experts on staff as the main challenge for compliance.

At the MWCC, educational institutions across the Front Range are banding together to share research, engage in outreach, and write stronger curricula to train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Participants share notes and research during a break.

A true consortium, there were over 20 higher education institutions across the Front Range from New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Attendees heard a number of presentations on research, a keynote address by Vance Brown, and roundtable discussions.

When digital warfare gets personal

One in three people were hacked in 2017.

One in three people were hacked in 2017. From Equifax to Yahoo to voting record hacks, a substantial amount of personal information is floating around in the cosmos, and many people and businesses do not know how to deal with the ramifications of these hacks.

MountainWestCybersecurityConsortrium-Vance Brown Talk
Vance Brown spoke about the current state of cybersecurity in Colorado and around the world.

Brown shared just how personal this became for him when a hacker contacted his bank and tried to impersonate him. The hacker had his social security number, his wife’s name, and his address. The hacker knew every piece of personal information Brown himself would use to verify his identity.

Luckily, the bank remained suspicious and when Brown asked why the hacker was denied access, the banker said they knew it wasn’t him because they called Brown’s cell phone number on file and heard the southern accent in his voicemail.

This is an incredibly thin line of defense against substantial loss, and a big reason why some banks are starting to apply voice recognition to security.

Brown continued on to say that 60 percent of small businesses close after a breach. By 2021, the expected damages from global cybercrime is expected to reach six trillion dollars, a figure that exceeds that of drug trafficking.

By 2021, the expected damages from global cybercrime is expected to reach six trillion dollars, a figure that exceeds that of drug trafficking.

So many industries rely on digital connections, including energy, financial, transportation, space, healthcare, the military, and voter records. It’s worrying to think the potential damage of these attacks isn’t limited to dollars. There are now documented cases of nuclear plant breaches, the Colorado Department of Transportation computers held for ransom, and the vulnerability of implanted heart monitors, just to name a few.

As corporations depend on digital solutions in new product development – from consumer shopping and payment systems to driverless cars – the consequence of an electronic security breach will only become more devastating.

CU at the ready to fill this need

David Sprenger shared the power of collaboration in educating cybersecurity professionals.

David Sprenger, Associate VP of Federal and Corporate Relations of the CU Office of Government Relations, worked closely with the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) to fund several initiatives, got involved with the NCC, and took on a driving role in organizing the MWCC.

Sprenger said, “It’s all about collaborative research, the public policy side, business management, ethics. We need to get higher education involved.”

Jahangir Karimi, CU Denver professor and director of Information Systems programs, takes an active role in the partnership for the Business School, because it aligns with the school’s mission to educate a stronger workforce ready for the needs of business today.

“Collaboration with MWCC will accelerate cybersecurity research, education, and community engagement by linking our capabilities with other participating institutions,” Karimi said. “It allows us to share best practices and diffuse cybersecurity practices to students and the business community.”

Jahangir Karimi shares research
CU Denver Business School Professor Jahangir Karimi spoke on best practices for cybersecurity education

Currently, the CU Denver Business School offers a number of options for our students interested in cybersecurity. All undergraduate and graduate business students can complete a certificate in cybersecurity. While it’s an option for all Business School students, it tends to most popular with our MS Information Systems, MS Finance and Risk ManagementBSBA Information Systems, BSBA Risk Management and Insurance students.

Our students also have opportunities to apply their cybersecurity knowledge to the real world. In December 2016, a group of students landed in the top 10 in the Kaspersky Interactive Protection Simulation, a live global competition between cybersecurity experts. Our students were coached by Yvette Connor, Adjunct Professor and Managing Director at Alvarez & Marsal, and competed against professionals at the top cybersecurity companies around the globe.

Last year, the Business School hosted a delegation of cybersecurity experts from India through a partnership with the US Department of State. A select group of students sat in on the discussion analyzing cyber risk and impacts.

Having the best coders isn’t enough

The need to protect enterprises from hackers is at an all-time high. The rapid job growth in cybersecurity has led to 10,000 jobs in Colorado alone over the past year. What may come as a surprise is not all those jobs are meant for IT professionals.

The rapid job growth in cybersecurity has led to 10,000 jobs in Colorado alone over the past year.

“Thirty to forty percent of the cybersecurity workforce isn’t technical. You have to understand the bad guys and what they want,” Sprenger said. “What it comes down to is the human factor. Your weakest link and your strongest link is human interaction.”

Women, for instance, often answer problems very differently than men, and have a knack for working through human factors. For example, a psychology major would excel by being able to better anticipate how a hacker will react and respond.

Businesses are looking for hybrid professionals that can take advantage of additional certifications and training. To follow that trend, UCCS shared its success in boot camps for sociology, anthropology, and psychology majors.

Where does the NCC fit in?

The NCC got its start in Colorado because of Governor John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper took a trip to Tel Aviv in 2015, where he visited an Israeli cybersecurity center that converges public and private sectors.

On his return, he signed a bill in 2016 establishing the NCC in Colorado as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Hickenlooper shared, “As our country and state face looming challenges in cybersecurity, we need to ensure that both Colorado and the nation are as prepared as possible for possible breaches. Our partners that are working to create the National Cybersecurity Center will ensure that Colorado is the center for carrying out this mission.”

The center’s base is in Colorado Springs and only grown its offerings since 2016 and formed partnerships to become Colorado’s leader in all cybersecurity conversations.

The center’s mission is to provide cybersecurity leadership, services, training and a cybersecurity community for public officials, business executives and the workforce. It proudly stands on three pillars.

  1. Public policy and cyber awareness
  2. Job creation
  3. Cyber workforce development

The MWCC and its impact on the future

UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy shared inspiring words.

Venkat Reddy, UCCS Chancellor, shares the same vision as Hickenlooper. He stopped by the event, because he is a firm believer that building a strong cybersecurity alliance is a priority.

“Cybersecurity is not anyone’s ownership or property. If we need to protect our nation, it’s a much bigger deal than UCCS or even Colorado. There is more power in collaboration than working at it on our own,” Reddy said.

“Cybersecurity is not anyone’s ownership or property. If we need to protect our nation, it’s a much bigger deal than UCCS or even Colorado. There is more power in collaboration than working at it on our own.” – Venkat Reddy

Reddy also expressed the very important need to build the cybersecurity workforce, and help companies who are struggling to fill those positions. Research and opportunities for students will be a direct impact.

Reddy shared, “We want to be relevant. Always. Not just to our students, but to the industry. The MWCC gives us an opportunity to be very relevant and provide solutions.”

The CU Denver Business School looks forward to building on this collaboration and providing educational systems equipped to train the next generation of soldiers for battle in this digital war.

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