TechNet helps stake out Augusta’s presence in cybersecurity world

Technically, it was a roaring success.

 

TechNet Augusta – the cybersecurity trade show that just keeps going and just keeps growing – swept into town last week. If you drove downtown and saw crowds of soldiers milling around the Augusta Convention Center, that’s why they were there – for networking, discussions and work sessions centered around cyber and electronic warfare, workforce training and doctrine.

Cybersecurity is the protection of computers and electronic data against criminal or unauthorized use.

It’s also Augusta’s Next Big Thing.

How big?

Fort Gordon already is home to the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence, which trains soldiers in cyber, signal communications and electronic warfare. By 2020 it also will be home to the Army’s U.S. Cyber Command. That’s going to bring thousands of new residents to the area.

With the fort’s surge in cyber activity, the civilian contractors who help support the Army’s cyber mission will want to be close by. So expect more businesses to come to the Augusta area.

The people who run these businesses also will bring their families. And they’ll need places to live, shop, eat, drink and relax. So expect even more businesses to crop up, and the businesses already here likely will get busier.

One of the economic talking points lobbed around TechNet last week was that for every new cyber-related job coming into the Augusta area, 2.3 “indirect” jobs are created – for the people who will deal with the increased commerce that comes with a rise in population.

And holy cow, I haven’t even mentioned Augusta University. AU founded its Cyber Institute in 2015, and a separate School of Computer and Cyber Sciences that’s going to occupy the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center now under construction downtown on Reynolds Street.

AU and Augusta Tech are going to be churning out graduates trained for cyber jobs that increasingly are in demand.

Cyber’s economic impact on the Augusta area is expected to be huge.

 

SPEAKING OF BIG: TechNet Augusta is only in its fifth year, but already it looks like it’s ready to outgrow the Augusta Convention Center. Several of the show’s events had to be held elsewhere downtown to accommodate the record crowd. Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., Fort Gordon’s commanding general, said attendance this year was up 20 percent. About 3,300 people were expected.

As big as it is, it’s not the biggest cybersecurity trade show – yet. In March, for example, IBM held Interconnect 2017 in Las Vegas, and offered more than 2,000 meeting sessions and more than 200 training labs.

 

EXHIBIT A: Morrison also said there were 15 percent more exhibitors on the TechNet trade show floor. I counted 172 companies that showed up to hawk their cybersecurity wares. They ranged from the heavy hitters in the defense industry such as General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, to smaller companies such as Human Touch LLC, a McLean, Va., company that provides an array of tech-support solutions to government clients.

Don’t confuse that Human Touch with a company in Long Beach, Calif., called Human Touch that produces high-end massage chairs. And don’t ask how I know this.

 

BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS: Cybersecurity is serious business, but who says there’s no room for a bit of humor?

Morrison delivered the opening keynote address at TechNet on Tuesday. He spent a half-hour answering cyber questions that were being emailed in, in real time, during the general’s talk. The questions were received, handled and read aloud by John Rutt, with the Cyber Center of Excellence.

After delivering a two-minute response to a question about soldier training, Morrison ended by asking, “Did that answer your question, John?”

Rutt paused then said, “Yes sir.”

“You’re really not sure, are you?” Morrison quipped.

Rutt diplomatically replied, “Sir, they’re not my questions, and I like your answers,” and the audience erupted with laughter.

“See me after class, John,” Morrison said.

A few minutes later, Rutt read the final emailed question, and it also drew plenty of laughs: “Is Jay Cutler the right answer for the Dolphins?”

Cutler is the NFL quarterback who was released in March by the Chicago Bears, but signed by the Miami Dolphins the day before Morrison’s speech. Whoever submitted the question knew the general is a die-hard Dolphins fan.

“They have officially broken my heart for 41 years, and I’m just going to sit here and say it’ll probably happen early this season,” Morrison said. “That fair enough?”

“Hooah, sir,” Rutt replied.

 

Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or joe.hotchkiss@augustachronicle.com.

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