Cyber Coast community convenes for Department of Homeland Security event

October 26, 2017

Department of Homeland Security
Jeanette Manfra

Jeanette Manfra, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, travels from coast-to-coast to various locations committed to investing in cybersecurity. Yet, her trip to Pensacola opened her eyes to a new level of commitment.

“I don’t think I’ve seen something quite like Pensacola’s effort to come together as a community across military, government, industry, (academia) and build a strategic plan and really think about how they can be a leader in cybersecurity across the country,” Manfra said afterward.

The Department of Homeland Security hosted a Cybersecurity Roundtable and Career Information Expo on Oct. 25 at the University of West Florida Conference Center. Manfra sat on the roundtable panel with Ray Murphy, Navy Federal Credit Union Chief Information Security Officer, Cmdr. Paul Lashmet, Commanding Officer, Navy Information Operations Command Pensacola, Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, Rita Lay, Gulf Power Company Technology Business Planner, and Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity.

The panelists shared how cybersecurity affects their professions before answering questions from the audience. Hayward put the importance of cybersecurity at the local government level in context when he said cyberattacks accounted for 42,000 of 100,000 emails received by the City of Pensacola.

Each of the panelists emphasized the importance of military, government, industry and academia partnering to increase cybersecurity awareness and bring cybersecurity jobs to Northwest Florida. Earlier this month, FloridaWest unveiled the Cybersecurity Strategic Plan. The plan consists of short-term and long-term goals and strategies for building a thriving cybersecurity workforce, strengthening partnerships to enhance innovation and economic development, enhance technology infrastructure and market the Pensacola region as “Live Coastal. Work Cyber.”

“It takes a village to do cybersecurity,” Lashmet said. “It’s not something (the Department of Defense) can do, DHS can do, industry can do. It requires all to come together. People aren’t practicing proper cybersecurity hygiene and are unwitting allies to attackers.”

Underhill stressed that cybersecurity offers a career path for everyone regardless of age, race and gender.

“If you can code and code sharp, I don’t care what color your skin is, how you talk or who made breakfast for you,” Underhill said.

Underhill detoured from panelists answering questions from the crowd when he asked the cybersecurity professionals in attendance to answer a question about workforce development.

“We have $1.5 billion in Triumph money,” Underhill said in reference to the awarded settlement funds from the 2010 BP oil spill awarded to eight counties in Northwest Florida for economic development projects. “(Cybersecurity) is a critical vulnerability. What would you need to be able to take on some interns, some of UWF students? What could the government do to minimize your risk?”

Manfra spoke afterward about the challenges for non-military cybersecurity professionals to obtain clearances to be employed by government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

“There are a lot of people we work with who have security clearances who were never in the military, both in the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, along with other agencies that give clearances to people who never served in the military,” Manfra said. “What we’re looking at is ways that we can identify people at the intern level, where we work with them as interns and know we want to hire them, so how do we begin that process while they’re still in their school?

“… I think there’s a lot of that we can take advantage of in the University of West Florida’s identification as a cybersecurity center of excellence. The NSA and DHS puts them in a position to be able to participate in those programs like CyberCorps Scholarship for Service.”

The Department of Homeland Security hosted a Cyber Career Information Expo in the afternoon. Educators and DHS officials shared information about career and educational opportunities in cybersecurity.