As Colorado becomes one of the county's leading technology hubs, the number of cybersecurity jobs is skyrocketing.
According to Cyberseek, a digital tracker of supply and demand for a cybersecurity jobs, there are currently 10,207 cybersecurity job openings in Colorado, the fourth highest rate per capita in the country.
Those vacancies and the industries growth track mean cybersecurity companies need a pipeline of local talent.
Enter Daniel Massey, a former program manager in the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Cybersecurity Division, who the University of Colorado in 2017 hired as faculty director of the Interdisciplinary Telecommunication Program.
With vast knowledge of the industry, he's provided the program with a much-needed update, the first of which was changing the name to Technology, Cybersecurity and Policy Program.
"To be honest, one of the reasons we're rebranding is because if you're looking to be a leader in cybersecurity, the Interdisciplinary Telecommunication Program was not the first thing that came up on your radar," Massey said, "But, as the data shows, Colorado is one of the top places in the country for cybersecurity. We have a ton of interesting companies that have their main nationwide security operations in Colorado and frankly, the higher education system, and the education system in general, is failing them and if I'm an employer looking where to expand that's worrisome."
The new Technology and Cybersecurity Policy Program was specifically designed to address this problem.
The key to its success, Massey said, is the intersection of the cyber and physical worlds, which teaches students not only the technical side of cybersecurity, but also the how to translate that knowledge into the real world.
To reach this goal, CU in the past year also developed 10 new cybersecurity courses and has partnered with several national security agencies to solve real national security problems.
"It's not just big industry, its small industry, of course, there's a ton of government labs and resources that are highly sophisticated in cybersecurity, and if we do it right, we're one of the top places in the country, if not the world, for cybersecurity," Massey said. "If we do it wrong, we're going to lose that opportunity."
As cybersecurity becomes a larger issue in politics following the 2016 election, the launch of the program even garnered the attention Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who on Wednesday spoke to students about the critical importance of cybersecurity in elections and urged them to pursue careers in government.
"I would say we have the leading cybersecurity division in state government, but the threats are always evolving, so we need our team to always be evolving in the way they think about threats," Griswold, said. "We have thousands of attacks a day on the business side, on the elections side, even on the notary side. We are constantly under attack so we are constantly looking at innovation in cyber to make sure that we're doing the best practices and leading the nation. With cyber you are only as good as you are today."
The Colorado Department of State's chief technology officer, Rich Schliep, followed his boss by talking to students about the technical details and strategies used by the department to protect people's information, many of which Colorado was the first state to implement.
For example, Colorado was one of the first states to employ double authentication for voter registration information, conduct cyber risk assessments by bringing in top hackers to test its systems and monitor the dark web. The department also was early in establishing relationships with all levels of government from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI to the Colorado National Guard and county governments.
"I really do believe that Colorado can be a national leader in democracy," Griswold said. "The first part of that is making sure we have secure elections and we're at a time when we've seen foreign governments actively trying to influence the outcome of our election, so we need the best and brightest. It's really exciting to see the next generation lead a lot of the innovation on the cyber side."