As more and more of the world does business on the Internet, it becomes even more critical for companies to take cybersecurity seriously. To do so, we need to invest in developing cybersecurity skill sets. Every aspect of the news — whether it’s political, business or lifestyle — contains headlines that continue to remind us nearly all the information floating around today can fall victim to a breach.
As part of my role with the Arizona Technology Council, I lead a group of Council members on an annual trip to D.C., where we speak with members of Arizona’s congressional delegation and their staff about technology initiatives. In recent years, the conversation has shifted to cybersecurity as our No. 1 topic.
Cybersecurity has grown to become one of the state’s largest technology sectors. The list of Arizona-headquartered companies specializing in this field contains more than 30 companies, including AccountabilIT, Acronis, BeyondTrust, CellTrust, InfoArmor, Kudelski Security, McKesson and RockCyber LLC. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 ranked Arizona in the top 10 for cybersecurity.
Our emergence as a cybersecurity leader began because of Arizona’s large military community and the resulting legacy expertise. This was followed by the launch of Infragard, a nonprofit organization serving as an outreach between the FBI and the private sector. In response to the growing threat of cybercrime, a new standard in cybersecurity then was established by the Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance (ACTRA) created by Frank Grimmelmann, the private sector interface to the Arizona chapter of Infragard, and Anthony Farinacci, the Infragard coordinator at the FBI.
Corporations involved in ACTRA sign nondisclosure agreements to share cyber threat information in real time. If a member is attacked, its representatives immediately send information to other members to prevent them from becoming victims as well. ACTRA’s success has led to its branching out to six other states, with plans to expand across the nation.
The Arizona Cybersecurity Team (ACT) is another key organization in Arizona’s emergence as a cybersecurity authority. Launched by Gov. Doug Ducey in March 2018, ACT is comprised of a well-rounded team of experts from state, local and federal governments, as well as private sector and higher-education leaders. The organization aims to increase public awareness, share best practices of cybersecurity, and strengthen cybersecurity workforce development and education.
The environment of collaboration created by ACT and ACTRA provides critical knowledge sharing to help the industry grow and build a talent pipeline. This foundation, along with presence of the military in our state, has turned Arizona into the cybersecurity powerhouse we are today.
While the growing list of organizations and resources aimed at strengthening cybersecurity has been critical to our leadership in the industry, there is still a massive challenge Arizona and the rest of the nation face: a talent deficit. In our state alone, there are roughly 7,000 job openings in cybersecurity. They include positions with cybersecurity firms, as well as positions within companies looking for similar skill sets. Until we fix our talent challenge, our ability to grow as a state and protect sensitive information will be hampered.
In response to this challenge, AZCyberTalent.com was created. The group is comprised of Arizona organizations and leaders such as the Council, the AZ Cybersecurity Workforce Collaborative convened by the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation and it Chief Innovation Officer, Jennifer Mellor, and the Council’s Workforce Development and Education Committee co-chairs, Molly Castelazo, owner of Castelazo Content and Cathleen Barton, owner of Cathleen Barton Consulting. This group not only addresses the current talent shortage in the cybersecurity field nationwide but actively works to reduce it by developing educational strategies and aligning programs with employer needs and capacity. The goal of AZCyberTalent.com is to increase workplace experiences for job seekers and leverage supply and demand data to strategically plan for a more secure future.
Besides its involvement in AZCyberTalent.com, the Council also is helping address the talent shortage issue through a variety of events. An example is our signature Cybersecurity Summit held annually. This event brings together leaders from across the state to showcase available resources, products and services geared toward helping protect intellectual property and customer data. It also opens up discussions on challenges such as talent acquisition and new cyber threats. The Council also organizes Lunch and Learn events focused on educating the business community on new tools, educational programs and resources.
Our state is leading the way as one of the nation’s premier cybersecurity and technology hubs, However, there are critical goals addressing talent and education that we must meet to achieve peak performance. This is important not just for Arizona but for data privacy and security across the world. To learn more about what local businesses can do to help solve these challenges, visit www.azinfragard.org/actra/ and www.aztechcouncil.org.
What: AZ Business magazine will host AZ Tech Talk, a panel of Arizona’s most innovative technology experts to discuss the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity. Industry leaders will lead a conversation and offer advice on how to minimize your business’ risk of a cyber-attack, data breach or other digital interruption.
When: October 10, 2019, at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Grand Canyon University, 3300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix.
Information: Click here.
Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.