Gov. Nathan Deal’s announces new cyber security center

The Augusta University Cyber Institute prepares to educate students on how to combat cyber security breaches and other cybercrimes. Photo Illustration by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal

On Nov. 18, Atlanta created a new cyber security crime unit to help combat cybercrime. And as the 2017 legislative session begins in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced the new $50 million training center that plans to increase American cyber security.

The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center will be in Augusta, Georgia, and kick off construction in the spring and complete construction in 18 months. The facility will also be the home to Augusta University’s Cyber Institute and the owners of the facility will be the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA).

Augusta has already been the hub of all cyber security with the United States Army’s Cyber Command (Fort Gordon), the US Army Cyber Center of Excellence, and the National Security Agency (NSA) all in the same vicinity.

The training center’s goal is to improve cybersecurity education, increase protection of public resources, as well as delivering secure government services through interagency cybersecurity by building cyber secure public building infrastructure.

Deal said the reality is cybersecurity is important, because cybercrime is now bigger than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined.

“The protection of Georgia’s citizens, businesses and institutions in the digital realm is becoming significantly more necessary as cybercrime continues to grow. Building on our efforts to keep Georgia safe and maintain its status as the No. 1 state in which to do business, we are taking action to ensure that Georgia leads the way on cybersecurity,” said Deal in a press release.

According to the Georgia Cyber innovation and Training Center fact sheet, out of the $50 million in funding $41.5 million will go towards constructing a 150,000 square foot facility, $2.1 million for staffing, $1.8 million will go towards planning design, utilities, and marketing, $4.6 million will cover staff and operating costs until the building is fully leased.

Joanne Sexton, Augusta University assistant professor and Cyber Institute director, explained that  cyber security skills are very perishable.

“Everyone needs the initial training to go into the field. If you’re not practicing you have to spend a little more time on it again. The role of cyber range is to keep everybody skilled and sharp. The thing we can do in a cyber range is a build networks that mimic real networks,” Sexton said. “We then attack those networks so that they can practice recovering from those attacks.”

She said once there’s a breach in a system, it’s always a challenge for the team that’s got to respond to it.

“Kind of like a car accident, you go into shock at first, you’re not thinking quite as well. Part of it is if you practice all the time, it becomes less stressful. If you learn how to work as a team, you figure how to communicate up to leadership so it’s giving you the real world stimulation,” she said.

Georgia, Michigan, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Arizona are of the few state-owned cyber ranges in the U.S. Georgia is the eighth largest state with a population of over 10.3 million. As its population grows at a steady pace, cybersecurity affects the individuals in some aspect whether it be economic development, education, workforce, or public infrastructure.

Private sector partner and AT&T President, Bill Leahy said AT&T alone has intercepted more than 2.5 million malicious messages and cyber threats in a single day.

“The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center will provide an unparalleled opportunity for cyber professionals to test their skills and systems in a safe and protected setting. This kind of real-world practice will be invaluable in training a new generation workforce as well as providing educational opportunities for our current workforce,” said Leahy.

Economically, Georgia’s labor force is growing at a rate of 6 percent, and cyber security sectors make up approximately 35 percent of Georgia’s employment. Government services will include opportunities to ensure a closer alliance between Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), federal, state, and local law enforcements.