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Gardner: State could lead in cybersecurity

By: David o. Williams -by david o. williams
September 1, 2017 Updated: September 1, 2017 at 4:35 am
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U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, answers a question at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner on Thursday told the Rocky Mountain Post that cybersecurity is a largely underreported topic in the state despite its potential to make Colorado a national and even international leader in one of the fastest growing tech sectors.

"The issue of cybersecurity doesn't always receive the attention it deserves, but is one that is critical to our national security and economic well-being," Gardner said via spokesman Casey Contres. "Every day, rogue actors are trying to launch cyber-attacks against our government and private businesses. Colorado has the workforce to continue to be a leader in this industry, and I'll keep working to encourage these important jobs to be located in our state."

Contres pointed to a number of legislative actions undertaken by Gardner, who's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity. Recent bipartisan bills he's introduced include the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act, the CHANCE in Tech Act, and a bill to create a Senate Select Committee on Cybersecurity.

"Sen. Gardner has made sure that cybersecurity remains a bipartisan issue and is one that gets the attention and resources it needs, especially after Russia's involvement in our election process," Contres said. "He's called for heavy sanctions against Russia, China, and any other nations that attempt to launch cyber-attacks at the United States."

Even if Gardner's efforts are going somewhat unnoticed, the tech industry is clearly onboard. The CHANCE in Tech Act in particular is aimed at increasing the number of tech workers nationally who can fill the current employment void in cybersecurity and other sectors.

"Regarding Colorado's cybersecurity industry, this legislation would help Colorado companies like Galvanize utilize federal investments to improve the pipeline of workers in cybersecurity and other tech-related fields," Contres added, referring to the Denver-based computer school.

From political hacking and social media smear campaigns to corporate espionage and outright cyberwarfare, there is no hotter topic than cybersecurity these days in the tech industry, and experts agree Denver and Colorado's Front Range are poised to cash in on the cyber-boom.

In fact, the University of Denver is banking on it.

"Security is the umbrella issue for the digital world, and data science is the underpinning language of all of that," said JB Holston, dean of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Computer Science and Engineering at DU. "As everything becomes that much more digitized, the demand for folks with these kinds of capabilities is only going to continue to increase at ridiculous rates."

For that reason, DU is currently offering both Bachelor of Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts degrees in computer science at the graduate level. Although the school does not have a cybersecurity-specific specialty at the undergraduate level, it does offer a master's in cybersecurity that it launched last year.

It's an intensive, residential half-priced program that students who don't have an undergraduate degree in anything related can still accomplish in one year. One is in cybersecurity, and the school is launching another master's in data science this fall.

"The market data was very compelling - both the national and global demand for positions in those fields, but also here in Colorado," Holston said. "The tech sector (in Colorado) is dramatically different than it was 20 or even 10 years ago throughout the whole state but particularly the Front Range. Within the tech sector we've got cybersecurity-focused firms that have emerged and are doing really well, and they're headquartered here."

Ranging from a couple billion dollars a year in revenues on down to a slew of smaller, sub-$20-million companies, Holston says Colorado cybersecurity firms are all over the map - from privately held to publicly traded and serving both the private and public sectors. Companies like Optiv, LogRhythm, Ping Identity, Managed Methods and Owl Security.

"It's a pretty rich panoply, from big ones to small cybersecurity firms that have sprung up over the last 15 years, which is the oldest the oldest of them get, but cybersecurity wasn't an issue then anyway, so that's as old as they are anywhere," Holston said.

Nationally, Holston points to big, pure-play cybersecurity firms such as Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet and FireEye, and smaller companies such as root9b and Mimecast. Government contractors such as Raytheon are obviously big into cybersecurity, including firms in Colorado Springs connected directly to the area's massive military infrastructure.

Stephen Stribling, a financial advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Denver, says cybersecurity is being eyed as one of the top growth stocks nationally and internationally.

"On the international side, we tend to look at themes, and our themes we expect to last two to five to 10 years, so one of the international themes for example right now is cybersecurity," Stribling said. "You see all the hacking. There is going to be a huge need for cybersecurity and companies as well as governments are going to have to pay up for it. Just look at the news."

Stribling agree that U.S. cybersecurity companies, some with Colorado footprints, represent some of the best investment opportunities, but he's also looking overseas, where investing conditions have improved in recent months given less quantitative easing by the European Central Bank and decreasing unemployment numbers in the former "basket cases" of the EU.

Really, though, he just views cybersecurity as a solid bet all over the globe, if the company in question has the right model.

"If you think about it, multinational corporations have systems all over the world and they've got to protect those," Stribling said. "There are obviously a lot of U.S. companies, but there are a lot of international companies in cybersecurity. Israel has a few companies over there that are very, very good at what they do."

DU's Holston agrees that Israel is on the cutting edge of cybersecurity.

"There is a tremendous amount of interesting startup activity based on cybersecurity-related technology and services in Israel," Holston said. "There's a higher proportion of that. It is the biggest cybersecurity market in terms of company volume and value of any in the world."

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