The Growing Importance of Cybersecurity to Frederick’s Economic Development

In 1988, Robert Morris launched one of the first widely known malware programs on the internet. Fast forward thirty years, and the Pentagon moves to evaluate its contractors’ cyber defenses.

The rapidly growing, multibillion dollar Cybersecurity Industry was born. In due course, October was designated the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and formerly a Computer Fraud convict, Morris is now a tenured professor at MIT.

Once known as Information Assurance or Compliance, Cybersecurity is clearly gaining outsized importance for both our economic future and the country’s sovereignty.

While the Industry already generates a substantial amount of economic activity on its own, it is also a key enabler for the technologies and systems that underpin today’s global economy. Moreover, major emerging areas of economic development will simply not happen without a reliable Cybersecurity infrastructure in place. These include IoT and industry 4.0, wireless 5G, smart homes and cities, and autonomous vehicles and drones.       

Rarely a day goes by without an attention grabbing headline concerning intellectual property or personal data theft, election systems or critical infrastructure hacking, new data protection regulations, etc. In fact, government entities alone receive over 300,000 new, potentially malicious files every day. Looking at all of this, one could argue that as a nation, we are still far from figuring out the optimal balance between deterrence and intelligence collection, and more importantly, between cyber and conventional warfare.

Naturally, domestic research, development and procurement are critical requirements for the Industry, and it follows that Cybersecurity is becoming one of our region’s key economic growth engines. Maryland is not only home to the National Security Agency, the U.S. Cyber Command, and many world-class commercial solution providers, but also to 16 NSA/DHS-certified Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. A number that is matched by only one other, much larger State (Texas.)

By some estimates, there are currently over 300,000 unfulfilled Cybersecurity jobs in the United States. Fortunately, Maryland already enjoys a notably high concentration of Cyber-related educational programs, professionals (over 30% growth in the 2014-2024 period), and entrepreneurial activity. 

State and local governments are also working hard and visibly to support and nurture the Industry, including the establishment of the programs and resources needed to develop of a highly qualified workforce. In Frederick County alone, our three Higher Education institutions already teamed up to offer a unified path to earning the Cybersecurity Master’s Degree.

Frederick is fortunate to be a prime location for businesses in general, and for those specifically tapping into the Cybersecurity industry’s regional growth.

As one may expect, Cybersecurity closely mirrors the evolution and challenges of the overall IT sector. Therefore, and while the focus tends to be on software and connectivity protections, and user/access protocols, actual network elements and even hardware components are equally critical. In particular, the exponential adoption of Cloud Computing, Mobile Devices and more recently Edge Computing, is substantially increasing the number and breadth of Cybersecurity solutions required by all kinds of organizations.

At the leading age of software and network virtualization, Frederick is home to young and successful Cybersecurity companies like Fugue, which automates the detection and correction of pervasive network vulnerabilities caused by Cloud Infrastructure Misconfiguration. In fact, Fugue is one of the top 10 funded Cybersecurity companies in the Washington, DC metro area.

Unfortunately, the chances of a Cybersecurity incident taking place cannot be completely eliminated but rather minimized and mitigated. Yakabod is another Frederick company that securely automates incident data management, analysis and reporting. They also provide high-security collaboration platforms for knowledge and data sharing to businesses and government agencies.

At the other end of Cybersecurity solution spectrum, Frederick based companies focus on the all-important hardware and systems. In one case, Patriot Technologies develops specialized, high-security hardware and supporting software, as well as custom-made infosecurity solutions that include wireless communications systems. In another, e-end provides robust end-of-life services for data storage hardware. Employing NSA-vetted processes, e-end ensures highly secure data sanitation –and/or destruction- of electronic media appliances such as hard drives as well as DRAMs, CDs, etc.

In between, and at the operations level, other Frederick Cybersecurity companies like Fortrex and Antietam Technologies deliver consulting and management services in critical Cybersecurity areas such as governance, compliance, third party risk management, vulnerability testing, and readiness assessment. Likewise, Frederick based A2LA, recently launched their Cybersecurity Inspection Body Program in collaboration with Baltimore Cyber Range. A2LA is one of the most important Accreditation Bodies in the world for laboratories, inspection bodies, and proficiency testing providers.         

These impressive Frederick based companies attest to our present and future economic development opportunities in this emerging sector. We are in a quite enviable position to capitalize on the research, development, and economic activity that Cybersecurity is bringing and will continue to create for the United States. 

All in all, Cybersecurity presents both immense challenges and possibilities, particularly for services oriented economies like America’s. It is critical to our economic future, and our security as a nation. A truly global Industry, arguably still in its early phases of development, it surely deserves a National Month Awareness designation.