Columbia’s DreamPort, opened last year, has developed as a place for the cyber industry to work collaboratively with the government to address pressing cybersecurity issues.
The 17,500 square-foot facility is nonclassified, cutting out a lot of the red tape that could potentially get in the way of the private sector helping to develop cyber solutions with the federal government.
“We try to get industry to engage here,” Armando Seay, DreamPort’s director, said during a tour of the facility. “The idea is whatever figment you come up with in terms of a challenge, we’re here to make it a reality.”
The DreamPort is the result of an agreement between U.S. Cyber Command and Maryland Innovation and Security Institute. It is described as a cyber innovation, collaboration and prototyping facility.
DreamPort’s leadership also includes Karl Gumtow, the co-founder and CEO of CyberPoint International.
Last year when DreamPort was announced, Gumtow described the potential of “tech transfer in reverse” where industry brings its solutions to government rather than government solutions being commercialized by the private sector.
You can see at DreamPort how that might work. The facility is mostly open spaces, with desks that can be used by anyone and a lot of space for collaboration.
DreamPort hosts a biweekly Cyber Conversation & Coffee event for people at DreamPort and U.S. Cyber Command to interact.
“You can get your company name or brand in front of someone and have a great cup of coffee,” Seay said.
These and other events are designed to engage the broader cyber community in Maryland. Other events have included boot camps, a small business industry day and a reverse engineering challenge.
DreamPort’s cafe area includes coffee cups from different cyber companies. Seay said it is like a kind of business card, where the name on the mug can remind the drinker about the company.
It will also be hosting the Army’s annual AvengerCon this fall, a hacker-style training event.
The facility’s nonclassified nature can help companies get with the government faster than the typical months-long process. One Israeli company, CyberX, has spent months trying to get into the government, all while its product has been available at DreamPort.
Just eight months after opening, DreamPort is already expanding. Construction is underway across the hall from its current offices that will nearly double the size of the facility to 34,600 square feet. The space is leased from Corporate Office Properties Trust.
DreamPort is also working on some specific projects, including election security and industrial security.
In one room filled with lab space, sits a Faraday Cage. A smartphone placed inside can be blocked from communicating with the outside world and people at DreamPort are working on ways to “interrogate” the phone while it’s inside the box, Seay said.
The next generation of cyber warriors could also come through DreamPort. Already the facility has had groups of students come through working on projects.
Another group is on the way. Unlike the last bunch of students, who already had a base of cyber knowledge, this one will have students less familiar with the subject and who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, Seay said.