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Securing Maryland’s future in cybersecurity

At the inaugural edition of a conference on issues in electronic warfare, security and programming in Baltimore, speakers in the public and private sectors highlighted the region’s outsized role in the burgeoning “cyber” industry.

Larry Cox, general manager at McLean, Va.-based defense contracting firm Science Applications International Corp., said the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area is a large source of positions in the growing field.

“This I-95 corridor we live in is destined to be the premier place for cybersecurity, and it’s up to us to make that happen,” Cox said in his opening remarks at the Baltimore Convention Center Friday, when the two-day Maryland Cyber Challenge & Conference, or MDC3, began.

HP Enterprise Services strategist Samuel Chun, a presenter at one of MDC3’s seminars, framed cyberspace as the newest arena of warfare. Defense and intelligence agencies, as well as businesses, want to be ready to counter hackers and viruses, he said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger emphasized job creation and online security as a pressing need for both Maryland and the United States.

“What you’re doing here is important for our national security, and it’s also important for our economic development,” Cardin told attendees.

Both Cardin and O’Malley described Maryland as a national leader in the cyber industry.

“We are the epicenter of cyber-security here in Maryland,” O’Malley said. “We’re bringing in … jobs and innovation. This is an exciting place to be.”

O’Malley said Maryland ranks in the top four states by number of tech jobs, with almost 250,000 residents employed in the field of information technology. By contrast with other professions, the cyber industry is not losing jobs and is actually growing, he said.

The state estimates between 25,000 and 30,000 of those employees work in the cyber industry, according to Cardin, with many of those people working for defense contractors or in government jobs.

Chun said his company had a presence of about 15 employees at MDC3 both for hiring purposes and customer relations.

“This is a way for us to interact with our customers,” said Chun, who said many HP clients in the public and private sectors attended MDC3.

The majority of attendees on Friday were representatives for their companies. Many were there as speakers or exhibitors, while others attended breakout sessions or milled about the conference’s trade show, talking to fellow professionals and viewing display tables, which about 30 organizations — including private companies, colleges and government agencies — set up on the convention center’s third floor.

Caroline Baker, corporate relations director at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said her school is intimately connected to Maryland’s cyber industry. According to her, more than one-third of IT workers in Maryland attended UMBC. The university also operates bwtech@UMBC, an incubator for cyber-oriented businesses.

“This is clearly a growth area for the state, so we want to be supportive of the cyber industry,” said Baker.

CyberMaryland, the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Tech Council of Maryland, SAIC and UMBC are founding partners of MDC3, which they plan to make an annual event.

MDC3 also included a Cyber Challenge, in which eight teams of six competed against one another to hack into and defend electronic systems. The National Security Agency provided cash prizes of up to $12,000 per team, as well as scholarships for student teams.

On Friday, event organizer K.C. Hopson estimated about 500 people attended the conference. He estimated Saturday’s turnout at closer to 800, bolstered by high school and college student iterations of the Cyber Challenge.

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