Opinion: Determining next-generation security | Business News | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Scott Sage

As we approach 2024, it is readily apparent that daily life is more dependent on technology than ever before. The benefits of this infusion of technology are vast. Whether we rely on nearly instant access to information on the internet or the modern conveniences provided by smart home automation, daily life has significantly improved because of it. 

However, despite a rosy perception of modern technology, we cannot forget that cybersecurity threats pose a real danger. Sophisticated ransomware attacks, the infiltration of supply chains and the exploitation of artificial intelligence all create opportunity for emerging threats that make the cybersecurity landscape more complex than ever. As technology innovations continue to advance in the new year, it’s important to determine how we can better prepare the next generation against threats to their personal information. 

Last fall, I worked for a large defense contractor, developing a space cybersecurity strategy to address some of our nation’s toughest national security challenges. Now, as COO of the National Cybersecurity Center, I am part of a larger Colorado Springs ecosystem, leading the country in fulfilling our obligation to steward the future of cybersecurity. That future includes a cybersecure workforce that will work to provide critical cybersecurity infrastructure in a constantly changing landscape.

The Colorado cybersecurity ecosystem is strong. In addition to NCC, the state is home to seven military installations, has the second-largest space economy, and serves as home base for more than 360 cybersecurity organizations. These include the University of Colorado  School of Medicine’s Center for Health AI, more than 30 federal research labs and the most sophisticated communications network in the country. Colorado is also home to many other partner organizations, including the University of Colorado system, Space Foundation, Space ISAC, and Catalyst Campus.

NCC influences the domestic cybersecurity protocol by serving as a public and private education incubator for the robust collaboration that is essential to securing cyberspace. In an era when digital threats are escalating, cybersecurity is no longer just an IT issue; it’s a societal one. Cyber is now fully integrated into the very fabric of society — our critical infrastructure. Cybersecurity education and protection are crucial for the stability, safety and operational integrity of health care systems, educational institutions and human services organizations, ensuring that personal data, research and services are not at risk of disruption or exploitation.

In 2023, NCC won a Small Business Association grant, which allowed us to partner with Metropolitan State University of Denver to train 95 aspiring cybersecurity analysts, now providing intrusion detection system monitoring to 10 additional communities through support from the Alan Paller Laureate Program. With eight other organizations in our ecosystem, we developed the National Science Foundation Resilient Space Infrastructures, Systems and Economy Engine to establish Colorado Springs as a regional tech hub.

As we enter 2024, we continue to see the significance of leveraging NCC’s applied technology and interdisciplinary educational partnerships to develop a sustainable Colorado workforce equipped to protect our nation’s systems, networks and programs from digital attacks. NCC will remain fully committed to the robust cyber and space-cyber ecosystem with a steadfast focus on leadership, collaboration and education. 

Additionally, NCC will be supporting small and medium-sized business owners as we equip our ecosystem against cybersecurity threats. It starts with talking to individual employees about their role in securing and protecting the information of their colleagues, customers and the company. There should be policies in place that define acceptable and unacceptable practices. Also important is limiting the number of users in the company who will have administrative access, minimizing the risks of downloading viruses and malicious software.

It almost goes without saying that businesses need to set up firewalls, encrypt information, and make sure their Wi-Fi network is hidden and password protected. Businesses need to be selective of the information that is being stored in company databases and set up automated backup of company data according to the level of company activity.

As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, we need to maintain a constant state of alertness and build a cybersecurity strategy centered around several pillars. These include investing in technology, providing comprehensive education and training, conducting regular security assessments, adhering to industry standards, developing incident response plans, and integrating cybersecurity into business strategy. Doing so enables businesses to identify and mitigate risks, respond swiftly to incidents and protect valuable digital assets — today and in the future.

How we approach cybersecurity in the next decade will have an exponential ripple effect on the future of humanity. I hope many will be inspired to collaborate with the NCC in engaging our ecosystem to steward our cybersecure future. As our CEO, retired Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege likes to point out, “Our daily actions, services, and products support our national security in ways that we might never witness or realize personally.” 

Scott Sage is the COO of the National Cybersecurity Center.


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