Georgia is a notable player in the cybersecurity field. Atlanta’s universities have cyber degrees. The city is the payment processing capital of the U.S.—an industry that requires robust security. And the U.S. Army Cyber Command is moving to Augusta by 2020.
With Atlanta Cyber Week, founder Justin Daniels wants to make sure people know that Georgia is a cybersecurity leader. Atlanta Cyber Week, which runs Oct. 2-6 in venues around the city, is a group of events that highlights the region’s cybersecurity ecosystem. The week’s events include the National Technology Security Coalition’s Chief Information Security Officer Policy Conference and Cybercon, a conference run by Baker Donelson law firm.
Daniels, a shareholder at Baker Donelson, spoke with Crain’s Atlanta about the city’s cybersecurity environment and Atlanta Cyber Week, which he called “the antithesis of a large trade show.” A full schedule of events is available on the Cyber Week website.
Q: Why does Atlanta Cyber Week exist?
A: At the end of Cybercon last year, it had been very successful, but we wanted to figure out how we could really up our game. When we sat around the table figuring out how to up our game, we came up with the idea of, what if we got multiple organizations together to put on multiple events about cybersecurity during one week? And we would have certain events that’d be like signature or key events.
Where we started was, I got introduced to Patrick Gaul at the National Technology Security Coalition. We had lunch one day, and I said, "Hey Patrick, I’ve got this idea about Atlanta Cyber Week. I know you’re going to have your first annual chief information security officer [CISO] policy conference next year. Would you want to be part of the week? In an effort to be part of the week, we would probably need to have our events at the same location on consecutive days so that we can really work together"… He got back, and 15 minutes later he called me and said, "I think it’s a good idea. I’m in." That was an important first step, and we’ve now gotten to the point where we’ll have 11 events during that week.
Q: What can attendees hope to get out of Atlanta Cyber Week?
A: One, I think most importantly, they are getting exposure to almost every organization, or what I like to call ingredient, that makes the region’s cybersecurity ecosystem in the conversation for being a preeminent cybersecurity hub. Two, if you’re an emerging company, you’re going to see all that Atlanta has to offer in cybersecurity, be it access to our cyber-trained workforce through Georgia Tech, Georgia State or Kennesaw State; access to our high-density Fortune 1000 customer base when you meet the CISOs from all of these companies; opportunities to mingle with our tech sector and our entrepreneurial businesses in Atlanta because you’ll be down in Midtown.
Q: What cybersecurity initiatives are being worked on in Atlanta and Georgia?
A: You have the governor’s $50 million investment in Augusta for the [Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center]. This is a world class facility that’s like a cyber environment. That’s demonstrating our state government’s significant investment in cyber. A lot of people don’t know that the Army Cyber Command is going to be headquartered in Georgia. Another thing is Atlanta and our region has this dense space of Fortune 1000 companies and multiple universities who have cyber-specific degrees. In short, our region has one of the best cybersecurity hubs in the world. Our challenge is our community, to date, has not spoken with a unified voice. That’s another goal of Atlanta Cyber Week: To have our community speak with a unified voice around cybersecurity, to really bring this awareness to what we’re doing.
Q: What are some cybersecurity challenges that Atlanta and Georgia face?
A: No. 1 is lack of awareness of the ecosystem outside of Atlanta… There could be a lot more business going on here because people aren’t aware of the access to the cyber-trained workforce, the density of Fortune 1000 purchasers of cyber products. If you’re not aware of that, an international company automatically thinks, "Oh, I want to go to New York, Boston, Silicon Valley and Austin." And Austin is in the conversation because of South by Southwest. They’ve done a really nice job of making that conference. Atlanta’s not always in that conversation the way it should be because we need to build this awareness.
I think the other thing is we need to do a better job on our challenge of how do we have meaningful engagement of our corporate community. What I mean by meaningful engagement—and we’ll discuss this during the week—is how do we have pilot programs for these startups or emerging growth companies, because the easiest way to show the market that you have a valid product is to have customers. If you have customers, it either makes getting funding unnecessary or it makes it a lot easier. [For] people who want to fund cybersecurity startups, what validates the product in their mind? Customers. What’s Atlanta have a really high density of? Customers.