Cyber liability risk has been rapidly evolving and recent studies have predicted that cyber-crime will be responsible for upwards of $6 trillion in damage annually by the year 2021, as cybercriminals get more sophisticated and hackers continue to steal protected data and important information.
The use of computers and information technology is the lifeblood of any corporation, whether they use them to communicate, to store data or provide information. That's why a data breach can be so detrimental — it impacts every aspect of a business, from customers to employers to infrastructure.
Texas is increasingly gaining attention as a national leader in cybersecurity, with San Antonio considered one of the top hubs for cybersecurity in the nation, thanks to the U.S. Air Force's Air Intelligence Agency, a large and growing National Security Agency presence and the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Cybersecurity has been an area of strength for the state over the last few years and the state is committed to continuing to grow this base.
A Legislative Difference
In 2017, the Texas legislature took some important steps in addressing cybersecurity and data privacy issues, with new laws enacted that deal with important subjects such as requiring practices for state agencies, continuous monitoring and auditing of network systems and processes, updating the penal code for the digital era and student data privacy protections.
For instance, the Texas Cybersecurity Act (House Bill 8) established certain cybersecurity requirements for all state agencies in the state, including adding cybersecurity as an element of the sunset review process, creating a cybersecurity council, and requiring that certain agencies conduct studies and reports related to cybersecurity threats and responses.
House Bill 9, known as the Texas Cybercrime Act, dealt with the absence of clearly-defined criminal offenses related to cyberattacks, hacking, and other nefarious activity related to networks, devices, and digital information. The bill created defined classes of criminal offenses for denial of service attacks, ransomware, and intentional deceptive data alteration.
Then there's the Cybersecurity Education Act (House Bill 3593), which now requires the State Board of Education to allow public school districts to offer cybersecurity courses for credit for high school graduation and to create language credits for coding courses.
The Power of Women
For the first time in 2018, the Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of Information Resources and SANS Institute partnered on Girls Go CyberStart, created to get more young women involved in the growing field of cybersecurity.
"The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals," says Alan Paller, SANS director of research. "Women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity, but by opening CyberStart to tens of thousands of high school girls we may be able to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field."
The new state initiative saw 568 Texas high school teams compete in a free online game to learn more about computer security training, with grants and additional funding given to those that registered the highest scores.
"Cybersecurity is an extremely important issue in the world today, and I am thrilled to see the next generation of our best and brightest Texas women getting involved," says Texas Governor Greg Abbott. "Their participation in the Girls Go CyberStart initiative will undoubtedly help spark more interest and increase the possibilities of future careers within this growing field."
Cybersecurity education is a growing field in the state, and currently more than 25 Texas colleges and universities offer certificates or degrees in cybersecurity and related fields.
In March, the Baylor University Cyber Security Student Organization team won the Southwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, putting itself on the map of top schools.
"Cybersecurity is about safeguarding our private information and protecting the critical infrastructures we all depend on for our daily lives," says Jeff Donahoo, Ph.D., professor of computer science at Baylor. "Here, it is not sufficient to just be good at cybersecurity; one must be better than those who would do harm."
Other programs with critically acclaimed expertise include Texas A&M's Cybersecurity Center, which was named a Top 10 Cybersecurity Program by Military Times Magazine; The University of Texas at Dallas and its Cyber Security Research and Education Institute, which has received more than $36 million in research funding and $8 million in education funding from federal agencies; and Southern Methodist University's Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security, led by executive director Frederick R. Chang, a former research director of the National Security Agency.