Work underway to keep cybersecurity talent from leaving Hampton Roads

Originally from 13News Now Andre Senior, WVEC 4:33 AM. EDT May 25, 2016:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — Teenagers are being taught to hack… but not in order to commit a crime. It’s so they know how to defend against cyber attacks.

“We actually hack in order to defend the hack, but it’s all ethical hacking,” said Linda Lavender, an instructor at Advance Technical Center in Virginia Beach.

But after learning those skills at Advance Techjnology Center, Hampton Roads lost Chris Hultin to a better paying job Texas.

“There’s not nearly as much in the private technology sector in Hampton Roads,” said Hultin, a former student at ATC who honed his skills under Lavender.

Just like our service members on the front lines of combat, these teenagers are our new soldiers in the cyber-war, where there were an estimated 160 successful cyber-attacks per week in 2015! That was up from 50 per week in 2010, according to data collected by the Ponemon Institute.

“These are the attackers who are launching the attack as you can see going across,” said current ATC student Cory Petko.

The 16-year-old showed us a map that shows real-time cyber attacks from China launched against the U.S.

But for the 475 students that graduate from ATC every year, getting a job here may not be so easy.

“Are the benefits and the pay here? Maybe, no,” said Lavender.

Better incentives such as more money were offered to Hultin, who took a job in Austin.

According to a report that was released last week, Austin is one of the nation’s 20 largest cities that saw their population grow last year, blustered in part by the cybersecurity industry.

“We’ve got over 200,000 un-filled cyber jobs. Virginia alone has 18,000 and these jobs pay an average salary of $88,000,” said Sen. Mark Warner, who has been working to make Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth attractive to Cybersecurity companies.

Learning the skills for that type of job isn’t only happening at ATC, but also Old Dominion University’s cybersecurity program.

Norfolk State University got a visit from Vice President Joe Biden last year, after it won a $25 million grant for its cybersecurity program.

On the local level, Norfolk city leaders voted to offer tax incentives to lure tech companies last week. Chesapeake, Suffolk and Newport News have similar programs and so does Virginia Beach, which is home to the cybersecurity firm IntellecTechs.

“Because we have the talent down here, we could certainly make a good story to have those jobs down there,” said owner Jeri Prophet, who notes that a regional effort would be greatly beneficial to the Hampton Roads area.

That regional push recently started with help Rob Hegedus.

The CEO of Suffolk-based cyber risk management company Serra-Brynn is part of a newly formed group called “Cyber Protection Resources.”

“From an advertisement perspective and from a lobbying perspective, they’re situated very well to be able to kind of demonstrate to the rest of the world that we have the talent here. And that we can absorb some of the additional work that’s coming up,” said Hegedus, whose company was ranked as one of the top 10 cybersecurity companies in the country and 16th in the world.

While the regional effort ramps out, Virginia Beach city leaders are trying to lure what they call a major cyersecurity company to the city.

Negotiations are still ongoing, so the name of that company hasn’t been released just yet.

We’ll follow it, and let you know when a decision is made.