Augusta Skyline

Cyber Supremacy: Can Augusta come out on top?

  • Augusta Skyline via Augusta Chronicle

Cyber Supremacy: Can Augusta come out on top?

By Damon Cline of the Augusta Chronicle.

It’s been one year since a national business magazine prognosticated “7 Cities That Could Become The World’s Cybersecurity Capital.”

If you missed Augusta’s 125-word mention in Fortune magazine’s report published April 6, 2017, you’ve most likely heard it repeated ad nauseam in some form or fashion during the past 375 days by enthusiastic state and local leaders who consider the speculative article validation that Augusta is on its way to global cyber industry greatness.

But “World Cybersecurity Capital?”

Even if such a thing were possible, it would be a pretty tall order for a city fairly new to the scene. Tech analysts say the cybersecurity sector is too diverse and dispersed for a single community to claim, even a city such as Augusta, which is rapidly becoming America’s epicenter for electronic warfare.

“It’s a global industry,” said Natasha Cohen, Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America. “I don’t think there will ever be one ‘center’ for cybersecurity.”

International Data Corp. expects the global cybersecurity industry to hit $101.6 billion by 2020.

As Augusta carves out a piece of the rapidly expanding pie, it will be doing so along with countless other cities, including the six Fortune listed in its report: Atlanta; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Tel Aviv; London; and, naturally, Silicon Valley – the San Francisco Bay enclave widely considered the world’s tech capital.

Augusta’s inclusion in the story – albeit as a “dark horse” – was based largely on the Pentagon’s ongoing relocation of Army Cyber Command to Fort Gordon and the state of Georgia’s then $60 million (now $100 million) investment in a multi-use cyber facility at Augusta University’s Riverfront Campus.

Fortune noted its report was based on subjective criteria and not intended to be comprehensive. In fact, it alluded to several honorable mentions that didn’t make the list, including San Antonio, a military city whose cyber industry cultivation started two decades ago.

There is no question the cyber buildup in and around Fort Gordon has catapulted Augusta into an exclusive group of communities with major assets and expertise in information security, and the list goes beyond the seven noted in the Fortune report.

Based on staff research, published reports and interviews with industry analysts, The Augusta Chronicle has compiled a list of 11 cities Augusta will contend with in the coming decades:

Atlanta: The home of Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Tech Village incubator has been making inroads into the cybersecurity sector. It’s financial services IT hub, “Transaction Alley,” already processed 70 percent of electronic payments. Atlanta also is one of six cities, the only in Georgia, in the running for the Army’s proposed Futures Command, an innovation-focused four-star command. Augusta’s Army Cyber Command is a three-star command.

Be’er Sheva, Israel: In 2013 the Israeli government opened the 23-acre Advanced Technology Park on the campus of Ben Gurion University to turn the Negev desert city into a “national and international center for cybernetics and cybersecurity.” Staff will include 5,000 professionals and cyber soldiers from the Israeli army’s Center of Computing and Information Systems.

Boston: Powerhouse academic institutions such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with a major venture capital presence, make Boston a natural player in an industry that homegrown company RSA helped pioneer in the 1980s.

Huntsville, Ala.: Already a major hub of research and development because of the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville is focusing its diverse talent pool into cybersecurity engineering, modeling, simulation and testing.

London: Europe’s premier cyber cluster, which draws on expertise from the country’s highly-regarded intelligence services, is close to one of the world’s largest financial services clusters. And its Cyber London startup accelerator is the first of its kind in Europe.

San Antonio: As home of a National Security Agency cryptologic center and the 24th Air Force Cyber Command, “Cyber City U.S.A.” reportedly has the second largest concentration of cyber professionals outside Washington, D.C., and more than a half-dozen cyber-related business incubators.

San Diego: The headquarters for the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command also is home to the Cyber Center for Excellence, a public-private partnership to accelerate the city’s cyber industry, which already has more than 100 small and mid-sized cyber firms.

Seattle: In addition to a tech workforce skilled in software development, gaming and military applications, analysts expect cybersecurity innovations will naturally spring from nameplate companies such as Microsoft and Amazon

Silicon Valley: The southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area is home to the world’s largest venture capital networks and the tech industry’s most robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, having birthed companies such as Apple, Google and Intel. It’s also home base for major cyber enterprises such as McAfee and Symantec.

Tel Aviv: Israel’s technology capital is home to more than 1,200 high-tech companies and 700 startups that enjoy a highly-focused synergy between the military, multinational tech giants, academia and government. About two-thirds of the nation’s venture capital flows into the Mediterranean coastal city.

Washington, D.C.: The area, which includes communities in Maryland and Virginia, brims cybersecurity talent, many of whom work as employees or contractors for federal law enforcement, defense and intelligence agencies. The National Business Park near NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., has more than 3.2 million square feet of mostly occupied office, lab and research and development space.