Cybersecurity Growth Linked To Education Offerings

By Sarah Breltenbach, The Gazette

OCEAN CITY — Maryland has the potential to become the Silicon Valley of cybersecurity, but could miss out on a major economic opportunity unless it offers more programs aimed at recruiting students into a little-known field, experts said during the opening day of the annual Maryland Association of Counties conference.

Elected officials and educators said the state is on track to become a home base for cybersecurity, the science behind protecting personal and governmental information from online attacks.

Howard County Executive Kenneth S. Ulman, who spoke on a panel Wednesday on the opening day of the conference, and his predecessor, state Sen. James N. Robey (D-Dist. 13) of Elkridge have pushed to make their county home to a Maryland-based cybersecurity industry, as the national Base Realignment and Closure process brings more intelligence employees to work at the National Security Agency and the National Cyber Command center at nearby Fort Meade.

“What can we do in Maryland that enables these brilliant minds to then start the next great companies?” Ulman asked the crowd of a few dozen at the afternoon session. “Throw out the names of the companies that we think about — the Googles, the Facebooks, whatever. How do we create the ecosystem so they’re created here? What are we missing?”

The answer, he and panelists U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Dist. 2) of Cockeysville and Donald F. Kettl, dean of the school of public policy at the University of Maryland, College Park, said, is educating more students and circulating information about opportunities in the cybersecurity community.

“The most important things about cybersecurity are not so much the technical reasons, as important as they are,” Kettl said. “But we’ve gotten to the point where a 16-year-old in the basement with somebody’s borrowed computer can cause havoc in the banking system. The really fundamental issues have to do with policy and of people.”

Movement toward an increase in the cybersecurity industry in Howard, which also recently broke ground on a statewide broadband network, cannot happen without more programs that target high school and college students who may not otherwise know of the career field, Kettl said.

“Cyber issues are going to affect all of us, and what we need is a cyber-educated work force out there that understands that cyber is everybody’s business — some people’s business much more than others, but in it is a business that affects everyone,” he said.

At the University of Maryland’s public policy school, professors are employing the Center for Academic Excellence, a resource funded by the federal government that reaches out to high school juniors and seniors to engage them in the intelligence and cyber work force and makes them understand that job opportunities are available within that sector, Kettl said.