Concluding last week, a group of Canadian IVLP participants explored the cybersecurity scene in San Antonio to learn more about developing the personnel, equipment, programs, and frameworks for waging digital warfare and fighting back against hacking of all kinds.
The group began by exploring UTSA’s cybersecurity programs. They were met by Dr. Lisa Montoya, who warmly welcomed them to San Antonio and introduced the ethos and academic programs at UTSA. They then met with Dr. David Dampier, Chair of the Department of Information Systems and and Cyber Security at UTSA. He introduced them to some of UTSA’s academic offerings in the world of cyberspace and the types of research projects UTSA sponsors. They then met with Dr. Greg White, Director of the Center of Infrastructure Assurance and Security. Dr. White discussed some of their collaborative projects with groups outside of UTSA and how they used the work being done at UTSA to benefit the world at large.
After lunch, the group was treated to a tour of Rackspace’s Customer Experience Center. Rackspace led our visitors on a tour of their one-of-a-kind facility which is made from a renovated shopping mall. After seeing the campus’s food court, slide, and beautiful fields of flags, the Canadians and members of Rackspace’s senior staff sat down to discuss how they protect their data and the data of innumerable clients who trust their information security to Rackspace.
Over the weekend, the group saw the LBJ Ranch, traveled to Gruene, participated in home hospitality, and took a bit of rest before resuming on Monday. Unfortunately, the group’s timing coincided with Columbus Day, or Thanksgiving as they would have celebrated in Canada. This left them with only one appointment on Monday at the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce where Mr. Will Garrett introduced them to Cybersecurity San Antonio, an initiative by the Chamber of Commerce to propel San Antonio’s cybersecurity industry into the future with consensus from local leaders in the field about best steps to take in the future. Cybersecurity San Antonio also helps attract new businesses to San Antonio to grow the local economy by showcasing all of the related amenities our city has to offer. Visitors were impressed by the combined efforts of many different parties to encourage growth in cyber and were also glad to learn from Mr. Garrett about the state, challenges, and successes of San Antonio’s cybersecurity firms.
After taking some time off on the rest of Monday to explore the San Antonio Missions, the visitors resumed their appointments on Tuesday with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). SwRI is a non-profit cybersecurity operation that seeks to tackle the largest problems in securing digital infrastructure for different government agencies, large corporations, or many other groups of various sizes. Though much of their work remains either classified or privileged, our group from Canada was still able to explore their campus and best practices for two hours and learn more about the compelling and important work SwRI does.
They then came to the SACIV offices for a meeting in our conference space with Air Force Cyber, the 24th Air Force. Squadron Leader Adam Simpson, an exchange officer from the Royal Air Force, had a lively discussion with our visitors about the work of the U.S. Air Force and their Five Eyes partners at Joint Base San Antonio. Our visitors really appreciated picking his brain to learn more about the offensive and defensive hacking done through the Air Force, the chain of command that supervises the cybersecurity apparatus, and the difficulties every government has in retaining cyber talent in a competitive field.
Before concluding their professional appointments, our visitors traveled to a very different locale in the form of Digital Defense Inc. Digital Defense provides cybersecurity products and services for a range of clients and offered to demonstrate some of their offerings to our visitors. CEO Larry Hurtado along with Mr. Gordon MacKay and Mr. Tom DeSot were all on hand to field questions from our visitors about the business practices of Digital Defense.
With that, their time in San Antonio ended, but each of the visitors walked away learning more not just about cybersecurity in the United States but also about the unique advances and strengths of San Antonio’s cybersecurity sector. Between those productive appointments and their time over the long weekend to see the local sites and experience the flavor of South Texas, our new friends from Canada walked away glad to have come.