What’s Working: What happened since Colorado invested in Colorado Springs as a cybersecurity hub  | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Along North Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs, a nondescript building in a shade similar to a manila folder houses tenants who are anything but vanilla.   

In one area, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. General Harry D. Raduege leads a small team at the National Cybersecurity Center, a nonprofit helping small and medium-sized businesses get the tools and support needed to battle malicious cyberthreats.

In another, the local university has plopped down its simply-named Cybersecurity Building with labs and classrooms for students training for a cybersecurity career.

Inside the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs is the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an ISAC where commercial space companies and government agencies share strategies and threats about space. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

And across the hall from Raduege’s office is the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an ISAC with more than 100 private companies and public sector agencies strategizing about cybersecurity in space.

It’s a concerted effort to better prepare America for the worst cyberattacks.

“We like to say we’re the only center that concentrates on both the fourth and fifth operational domains of space and cyberspace,” said Raduege, NCC president, after ticking off the five operational domains: land, sea, air, space and, the newest, cyberspace. “And frankly, that is becoming a really big deal because as we launched different things back in the ’80s, ’90s and beyond, we didn’t concentrate on protecting those assets in space from cyberattacks. So they’re vulnerable.”

Helping folks closer to home, however, is still a core mission for the organization, which was created in 2016 under then-Governor John Hickenlooper. At the time, the state legislature approved $8 million to fund the efforts, which included setting up a policy council and having the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs work with the public and private sector to form what would become NCC. While opportunities like the Space ISAC have helped NCC evolve, NCC is still very focused on creating awareness from kids to adults (it just wrapped another Cyber Patriot summer camp) and training small and medium-sized businesses. 

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. General Harry D. Raduege leads a small team at the National Cybersecurity Center, a nonprofit helping small and medium-sized businesses get the tools and support needed to battle malicious cyberthreats. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

“It’s an unfair fight,” said Mark Weatherford, NCC’s chief strategy officer. “I often phrase it as between the Fortune 500 and the unfortunate 5000. They all have the same challenges, but the Fortune 500 are resourced much better. We’re here to help the less resourced organizations to be able to combat these different threats.”

Of course, locating in Colorado Springs was also strategic. With the five nearby military bases or installations, there’s roughly 350 to 400 people leaving or retiring each month. That created a pipeline of potential job candidates with security clearance. Efforts to focus economic development on cybersecurity in the past decade have been highly successful. A Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC cybersecurity report from 2018 counted up 125 cybersecurity companies and 3,000 workers in the region. 


“We’ve got 360-plus (cybersecurity) companies right now,” said Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer, Chamber president and CEO. “That’s about 28,000 employees. And wherever you have a cluster effect, when there are 28,000 employees in a sector, people are going to flock to that region. … But the only way that we’ll be able to grow it is if we’re able to attract the talent to our region and help our existing businesses expand.” 

Still not enough cyber professionals

According to one research report, there are 3.5 million job vacancies for cybersecurity professionals worldwide. While that’s a high number, it’s an estimate that hasn’t grown for the past couple years, indicating that workers are making their way into the industry. In 2020, the same researcher, Cybersecurity Ventures, projected 3.5 million openings in 2021.

“The number of open positions leveled off in 2022, and remains at 3.5 million in 2023. Industry efforts to source new talent and tackle burnout continues, but we predict that the disparity between demand and supply will remain through at least 2025,” said Steve Morgan, the founder of Cybersecurity Ventures, in the company’s latest report.

According to recruiter Robert Half Technology, the pressure to quickly hire cybersecurity professionals has eased since the pandemic. That’s partly because defense companies needed workers to be on location instead of remote, making it especially challenging with COVID-19 health restrictions. Employers were hiring fast and often, requiring less experience, said Andy Nordine, Robert Half’s branch director for the Denver and Colorado Springs region.  

“Now what we’re seeing is those jobs are still there but they’re more quality focused,” Nordine said. “And what I mean by that is they’re looking for individuals to check off more boxes. When you’re talking specific to Colorado Springs, one thing (is) security clearance. And then we want to have five to 10-plus years of security incident or event management, and that shrinks your candidate pool so companies are spending more time just interviewing more candidates. The hiring process is just a little more elongated.”

Colorado Springs also has a higher concentration of cybersecurity openings than larger regions like Denver. Denver doesn’t even make it to the list of top metro areas with the highest concentration of information security analysts jobs, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Colorado Springs, however, ranks third for such jobs in terms “location quotient,” which measures the concentration of certain industry:

“There are more open jobs than qualified individuals and companies are more stringent in their requirements,” Nordine said. “They want more experience than what they wanted, let’s say 18 months ago when they were willing to get people down the field, essentially hiring someone who can learn as they go. Now with hiring being a little bit more quality based, as in checking off 80% of the requirements as opposed to 65-70%.”

And at least for jobs handled by his agency, Colorado Springs definitely has a higher concentration of cybersecurity jobs, he added. It’s around 15% of all tech jobs in Colorado Springs, compared to 10% in the Denver area. He also cautioned that the 15% is just for his company. U.S. Department of Defense-related security contractors tend to be handled by specialty firms like Booz Allen Hamilton.

The National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

Places like the chamber, NCC and the local workforce center continue to push education and training in the community. NCC plans to launch a SEMTech school later this year. The program focuses on K-12 students on cyber safety education and for the older students, taking courses that could earn them industry-level certifications, not to mention high school credit.

The chamber, which dove into creating a regional cybersecurity strategic plan in late 2017, considers cybersecurity a main economic-development focus, next to aerospace and advanced manufacturing. As people exit the military, efforts are focused on keeping them in town.

“We have an estimated 85,000 retirees in our region alone in our metropolitan statistical area, and many of them (former military members), when they retire, have many more years to get to a new career. It’s highly transferable,” Kleymeyer said. “They don’t all stay in Colorado but we work very hard to keep as many as possible.”

Cybersecurity sources:

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➔ Flaw in U.S. inflation report? That’s what real estate data firm SMR Research Corp. believes. The New Jersey company has qualms with how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates housing costs, especially for homeowners, which BLS calls the “Owner’s Equivalent Rent” — “a strange and spurious number,” said SMR’s news release. While the rising costs of insurance and utilities are calculated in other parts of the Consumer Price Index, the cost of long-term mortgage payments, excluding property taxes, tend to stay the same each month. Hence, concludes SMR, the overall U.S. inflation rate for May should have been 2.78%, not 4.0%.

Other working bits

➔ $27 million awarded to groups focused on job training. Colorado is serious about investing in workforce development, as in $85 million serious. That’s how much money was set aside last year by the state legislature to create Opportunity Now, the regional talent development grant program. This week, the first phase awarded $27 million to 46 organizations, which included top recipients St. Vrain Valley Schools, awarded $7 million; Western States College of Construction, $3.4 million; and Relay Graduate School of Education, $2.4 million. Phase 2 of the grant program opens in July. >> See the full list of awards

➔ Grants for small manufacturers. Manufacturer’s Edge, an organization promoting Colorado’s small manufacturers, is looking for applicants for its Small Manufacturing Recovery Grants. >> Apply

➔ Denver’s housing crises, according to Zillow. Even if every household could afford to buy a house, there just aren’t enough, according to a new report by real estate site Zillow. It estimated that there are 8 million “missing households” in the U.S., or people who are living with another household because they can’t find an affordable house. There are only 3.7 million houses available for sale or rent. But if another 4.3 million houses were built, that would provide enough housing for everyone. In Denver, Zillow estimates that the metro area has 97,000 missing households and is short 70,000 homes. >> Read report

Thanks for sticking with me for this week’s report. As always, share your 2 cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at ~ tamara 

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