San Diego Industry Study Leads to Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

[Updated 3/20/14 11:45 am. See below.] A group of San Diego civic and network security leaders, angling to catch a rising wave in the computer security industry, are establishing a Cyber Center of Excellence here to help accelerate the regional growth of cybersecurity jobs and technologies.

The new center reflects a growing nationwide demand for cybersecurity professionals, driven chiefly by an onslaught of costly, high-profile Internet attacks on U.S. computer networks, including Target, The New York Times, Visa, Nasdaq, and others.

A recent report from Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston labor-market analytics firm, shows that cybersecurity job postings soared by 74 percent from 2007 to 2013. The firm says it counted 209,749 postings last year for cybersecurity-related jobs nationwide. The field accounts for about 10 percent of all IT job postings, according to the Burning Glass report, but the growth rate is more than twice as fast as the rate for all IT job postings.

The move to create a local Cyber Center of Excellence stemmed in large part from an assessment of the cybersecurity industry that was done over the past five months by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC). An executive summary of the study concludes, “San Diego is especially well-positioned to benefit from this trend, with both a critical mass of firms and a solid economic foundation on which to grow.”

The results of the report, which is being released today, “will surprise a lot of people,” Eset CEO Andy Lee told me by telephone. “We have well over 100 companies here directly involved in cybersecurity.”

The Cyber Center of Excellence is intended to serve as both a centralized resource for companies and organizations looking for help—as well as a way to draw together a largely fragmented industry. The EDC estimates there are about 40,000 IT workers in the region.

“The whole aim is to unify military, government officials, industry, and academia behind the need for improved cybersecurity,” Sentek Global CEO Eric Basu told me. (Sentek, a government and commercial contractor that provides IT security program management, information assurance certifications, and other services, co-sponsored the EDC study.)

Organizers describe the center as a “public-private partnership dedicated to accelerating the cyber innovation economy” in San Diego. Sentek Global, Eset, and other local companies are backing the initiative, with help from the EDC, local political leaders, and the San Diego headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), a multi-billion dollar agency that oversees major Navy contracts for IT systems engineering, technical support, and other programs.

[Updates with new information and comments] Local industry and political leaders, including San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer, Democratic Representatives Scott Peters and Susan Davis, and SPAWAR’s Rear Admiral Patrick Brady gathered to provide details about the center at a press conference in San Diego this morning.

“This cybersecurity threat is only increasing—not only in defense but obviously for every one of us in our personal lives,” Brady said. SPAWAR manages about $1 billion in Navy contracts from its San Diego headquarters, “so I look at this effort where we could help not only on the procurement side by being able to contract with more companies, but also by teaming with universities and have that opportunity to find great employees to bring into SPAWAR as experts in cybersecurity.”

The center already is laying plans for a couple of initiatives, Basu said.

Under the most intriguing proposal, the new Cyber Center of Excellence would collect data about cyberattacks and security breaches from companies in the region and use data analytics to extract interesting trends, such as the source of cyberattacks and methods used. The center would disclose its findings and insights in a regular cybersecurity report.

Under another proposal, the center would provide a “cybersecurity seal of approval” to assure tourists visiting San Diego that their hotel Wi-Fi network meets certain network security standards. The local hotel industry has been asking for something like this to allay concerns among tourists as well as business travelers in San Diego, according to Mark Cafferty of the EDC.

For all the effort to highlight San Diego’s cybersecurity cluster, however, the city failed to crack the list of Top 10 U.S. cities for cybersecurity job postings in the Burning Glass survey. In response to an Xconomy query, Will Markow of Burning Glass extended their data run a little further and found that San Diego ranks 12th on the top 10 list of cybersecurity job postings, with 3,665 postings in 2013.

San Diego is showing strong job growth, though. With a 112 percent growth rate from 2007-2013, San Diego is ranked ninth in a listing of fastest growing metro areas for cybersecurity job postings.

Almost any major U.S. city could make similar claims about their cybersecurity cluster, said Alan Paller, director of research at the Baltimore, MD-based SANS Institute, which provides security training continuing education courses systems administrators and other IT professionals. “On the other hand it’s impressive that [San Diego] is making the effort and I like the projects,” Paller writes in an e-mail.

From Burning Glass Technologies

From Burning Glass Technologies

In any case, the EDC study clearly mirrors the nationwide explosion in demand for cybersecurity products and services. At a time when employment growth in the San Diego region is estimated at about 2.2 percent for the next year, the study projects job growth among cybersecurity firms at 13 percent. Jobs for cybersecurity professionals, in particular, are expected to grow by 25.7 percent.

Some other highlights from the EDC study:

—More than 3,500 private sector employees work in cybersecurity-related jobs in the San Diego region, with a direct economic impact of more than $502 million annually.

—Private businesses across all industry sectors employ cybersecurity personnel, and companies like Sempra Energy and Qualcomm have made significant investments to defend their networks. More than half of the “cyberemployers” in San Diego indicated “they had either some difficulty or great difficulty finding qualified applicants who meet the organization’s hiring standards for cybersecurity positions.”

—SPAWAR, which oversees IT technologies for Navy enterprise information systems, space systems, and a long list of command, communications, intelligence, and reconnaissance systems, employs about 3,095 cyberprofessionals, with a direct economic benefit of nearly $438 million a year.

—The study estimates that the total economic impact from the cybersecurity industry in the San Diego region, including both direct and indirect benefits, is more than $1.5 billion.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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One response to “San Diego Industry Study Leads to Cybersecurity Center of Excellence”

  1. This $1.5 billion is such a waste if this cybersecurity in San Deigo cannot be well implemented.