Business investment in digital protection growing

State officials are hoping to retain and attract more cybersecurity talent in Indiana.

Douglas Rapp, advisor for cybersecurity and national security initiatives with the Indiana Economic Development Corp., held a town hall meeting at Columbus City Hall on Nov. 2 focusing on cybersecurity.

The town hall was held to obtain feedback so state officials can better allocate resources from the state secretary of commerce for cybersecurity needs, Rapp said.

The cybersecurity market on a global scale has grown 35 times since 2004 and that growth has also been seen across the country as well, he said.

“We’re seeing a 12 to 15 percent increase in cybersecurity spending year-over-year for the next five years,” he said.

Jobs in the tech industry are also increasing in Indiana, which experienced a 17 percent growth rate between 2009 and 2014, Rapp said. That is triple the growth rate of tech jobs on a national level, he added.

In April, Gov. Mike Pence announced the formation of the Indiana State Executive Council on Cybersecurity, also known as the Cybersecurity Council, as a public-private partnership that is responsible for enhancing the state’s ability to prevent, respond to and recover from all types of cybersecurity issues, including attacks.

The council was established by executive order and includes expertise from public and private partners.

“We have a history of collaboration,” Rapp said, noting that more 20 state and federal agencies have also committed their support to cybersecurity issues in Indiana.

In the feedback, several people who attended said they believe the state could improve its cybersecurity efforts by offering incentives and removing barriers to obtaining technology that could be used to improve tech systems. But several individuals in attendance during the town hall meeting said they thought the state could make improvements by offering incentives and removing barriers to technology to help businesses and local governments be successful.

Michael Guenther, business development manager with Sharp Business Systems, works with entities such as schools and businesses and said the biggest challenges facing these groups are often out of their control. Guenther pointed to the fact that school systems have to answer to the state as to how they manage their information, along with city and county governments, as just one example.

“Some counties, for example, are bound by the state government on how they back up their (records) and until recently, it was by laser-fiche,” Guenther said.

As a result, they have been required to obtain special permission from the state to convert to digital files, something Guenther said needed to be streamlined.

He said many local governments don’t have the financial resources to address those issues directly, and the state needs to provide financial incentives for agencies to upgrade their data.

“We’re still in a very reactive environment … and it’s still a problem, but we’re starting to recognize the problem as those circumstances come up where we see the breaches happen,” Guenther said.

“I think an event like this gives us a voice to the state and how they can be a willing partner to help all of the Indiana communities become aware and move in the right direction,” Guenther said.

Bill Russell, chief information security officer with Cummins, said the company faces cyber threats like many other large firms do, but said the challenges it faces are finding people with the right skills to perform the work that is needed.

“There’s challenges in protecting systems that are designed to last a long time, so when they were designed 25 years ago, nobody was worried about cybersecurity and consequently today, it can sometimes be challenging to get protections around some of those older systems,” Russell said.

He said he thinks incentives from the state would be helpful to companies in providing internships, adding that Cummins works with local students who are studying cybersecurity.

“I can’t provide internships to all of the students who are interested or eligible, and I think that’s a perfect role for the state to provide some kind of incentives,” Russell said.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com