The Inland Northwest has emerged as a minor hub for cybersecurity and is poised to grow and gain recognition in the field as regional universities create programs for future cybersecurity workers, according to some experts in the field. here.

Bill Kalivas, Spokane-based cloud strategy consultant for Google Cloud, said the industry has been growing quietly here.

“It’s what I call a hidden innovation community, a hidden tech community, around the Inland Northwest — this sort of boutique industrial cluster for cybersecurity,” Kalivas said.

He was involved in founding the tech industry networking and event organization, LaunchPad INW, and the non-profit entrepreneurship support organization, Connect Northwest.

“I have a list of 40 or 50 companies (Inland Northwest) that provide cybersecurity advice or services, or have a security-related product,” he said.

Heather Stratford, CEO of Spokane-based cybersecurity firm Stronger International Inc., said the growth of the cybersecurity industry here is partly attributable to the shift of remote workers to the region.

“People don’t realize how many tech and cyber experts make the Inland Northwest their home,” said Stratford, who is also CEO of Drip7 Inc., a microlearning cybersecurity and compliance training startup by subscription.

“They don’t necessarily work for a company that’s down the street, but they live here. They are part of a brain trust that is in the area.

The cybersecurity industry is also growing in the Interior Northwest as more startups in the industry are created here, such as Coeur d’Alene-based cybersecurity threat detection company Quantum Star. Technologies Inc.

“We have a micro-hub here because we have multiple startups and multiple companies that are meeting the huge need nationally and globally,” Stratford said. “It’s a good place for startups to grow.”

Some cybersecurity companies launched elsewhere have moved here or established an office in the region, Stratford said.

Kalivas noted that many cybersecurity companies here are business-to-business products. and services suppliers.

“There are so many software companies that people here don’t know about, but it’s software as a service, which you don’t see…so you don’t really identify with them,” Kalivas said. .

Another reason many people don’t realize the industry has grown in the area is the lack of promotion.

“We haven’t really found a way to brand this… innovation ecosystem that we have here,” Kalivas said.

Pat Massey, Region 10 Director for the Seattle-based US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said, “Every industry is threatened by a cyberattack.

CISA Region 10 includes Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska. The federal agency was created in 2018.

Massey said cybersecurity as an industry is growing exponentially because the need for protection is increasing.

“Our job is to work with industry, with government, and with the American people to try to make cyberspace safer and more secure,” he said.

In 2021, 43% of cyberattacks targeted small businesses, according to CISA. These attacks on small businesses increased by around 400% between 2019 and 2021, according to agency data.

According to cybersecurity industry publication SC Media, the median cost of a cyberattack against a US-based business in 2022 is $18,000, up from $10,000 in 2021.

Stratford said some major healthcare networks in the region report blocking up to 800,000 attacks in a week.

“We are a medical hub. It’s one of the things Spokane is known for,” Stratford said. “The medical industry as a whole has seen a huge increase in ransomware and cyberattacks nationwide. Medical is under attack because it is information rich.

Universities are also frequent targets of attacks due to the volume of student information these institutions keep.

One example is Whitworth University. The university announced in August that it had been the target of a ransomware attack that crippled many critical operations for several days, including the university’s email system.

Ian Moore, the Olympia-based CISA cybersecurity coordinator for Washington, said he is working to create a new cybersecurity adviser who will likely serve central Washington and eastern Washington as well as northern Washington. ‘Idaho.

“Because of the growth of larger companies in this space, we’ve seen the demand for additional cybersecurity support,” Moore said.

The global cybersecurity market was valued at around $185 billion in 2021 and is expected to top $202 billion this year, according to business consultancy Grand View Research.

Educational institutions are responding to the need for increased cybersecurity training to produce a future workforce for the cybersecurity industry, Stratford said.

“It’s one of the fastest growing fields in STEM, and in every aspect, whether it’s hardware, software, workforce development, or certifications,” he said. she declared. “The University of Idaho offers master’s degree programs in cybersecurity that are nationally known.”

She added that Gonzaga University is set to launch cybersecurity certificates, and Whitworth, Spokane Community College, and Spokane Falls Community College are working to provide more training and careers for students.

There are more than 769,000 cybersecurity job vacancies in the United States, according to cybersecurity workforce analytics platform CyberSeek. More than 16,000 of these positions are in Washington.

According to job market website ZipRecruiter, the annual salary for most cybersecurity jobs in Spokane ranges from $39,500 to $297,000, with the average salary being $110,800 per year.

Massey said there are a growing number of colleges and universities in the United States that offer cybersecurity degrees and certificates.

“We’re starting to turn the tide a bit by bringing people into the cybersecurity pipeline,” he said. “The next decade is going to be critical. As more and more devices are connected to the internet, are we going to have the skilled workforce to try to secure all of those devices and all of those businesses that are connected? »

Stu Steiner, assistant professor of computer science at Eastern Washington University, said the Cheney-based university was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber ​​Defense in October 2021 by the US Department of Homeland Security and National Security. Agency.

Currently, 63 students are enrolled in EWU’s cyber defense minor degree program through the university’s computer science department. Cyber ​​defense focuses on securing networks to prevent cyberattacks and respond when an attack occurs, Steiner explains.

Two students are enrolled in the cyber operations bachelor’s degree program, which aims to teach students how to find and eliminate cyber threats, Steiner said. These students are expected to graduate in June 2024.

“They both already have conditional offers for summer 2024 from various federal executive agencies,” Steiner said. “By combining a degree in computer science and cybersecurity, you are almost guaranteed to have a job.

“Our goal is to train as many students as possible who are practical and ready… to work as cybersecurity analysts, architects and engineers.”


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