Governor Makes Push to Attract Cyber Security Firms to Virginia

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VA Cybersecurity RoundtableThe state of Virginia receives one cyber attack every four seconds meaning the state has withstood over 50 million attacks this year. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has launched an initiative called “Meet the Threat” to better protect state information systems and attract cybersecurity firms to Virginia.

Gov. McAuliffe, the new Chairman of the National Governor’s Association, organized a collection of regional summits consisting of cyber roundtable discussions ahead of a national summit he is planning in Virginia next year. The governor hosted one of the cybersecurity roundtables on July 22 where a collection of industry leaders, investors and state officials discussed areas where Virginia can better attract more cybersecurity companies.

TandemNSI Managing Director Jonathan Aberman was in attendance. He said the roundtable focused on developing the state’s cyber workforce, improving the commonwealth as a cybersecurity consumer, and developing the infrastructure to attract cyber companies, among other issues.

The state of Virginia has more than 17,000 open cybersecurity jobs with starting salaries over $80,000, McAuliffe said. Along with putting people to work, the state wants to improve the workforce to get more cybersecurity companies to open offices in Virginia. After the access to capital, an educated workforce is one of the top resources technology companies seek when deciding on where to base their companies.

About 650 cyber companies are currently based in Virginia with an expectation that the number of cybersecurity jobs will grow by 25 percent over the next six years. McAuliffe explained that the state needs to emphasize computer science earlier in the education system along with other cyber education investments.

To improve the infrastructure in the state, members of the roundtable suggested building a cyber test range similar to the National Cyber Range developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and used by the Defense Department. A range built by Virginia would allow state companies to test their programs’ resiliency against cyber attacks as well as solutions to those cyber attacks.

Virginia Cyber Range

Military leaders have estimated that the National Cyber Range saves the Defense Department more than $3 billion because of the cyber protections it helps provide for equipment and systems before they are deployed. Lockheed Martin recently received an $82 million contract to operate the range over five years.

Leaders of cyber security firms who attended the roundtable said the state needs to take steps to become a better consumer of cybersecurity solutions. Much like the Defense Department, the state government’s acquisition system is not built to buy cyber products and services quick enough to keep up with evolving threats, according to roundtable attendees. This is an area the state of Virginia could offer leadership.

Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson attended the roundtable with the governor along with industry leaders like Rick Gordon, managing partner of Mach37, and Norm Loudermilch, COO of Invincea, among others.

Along with McAuliffe, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, has also made cybersecurity a priority in his administration. This year he launched the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus with Sen. Cory Gardner, R-CO. He’s repeatedly urged government leaders to take action to better protect federal systems.

Warner sees cybersecurity as an industry to help spur economic growth in Virginia. He has told industry leaders that he wants to make the necessary investments to ensure his state is a leader in the field.

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