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An ambitious initiative is aiming to make New York City an epicenter of cybersecurity leadership with dual goals to spur economic development and tackle cyberthreats to organizations in the city.
The Cyber NYC plan is bringing together academic institutions, government leaders and corporate partners to work on six distinct but interconnected projects to build cybersecurity competencies and create a cybersecurity ecosystem.
The New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) announced the Cyber NYC program last fall, with $30 million in city funds and $70 million in private funding fueling the initiative.
"It is one of the biggest and boldest and most multifaceted cybersecurity initiatives in the world," said Nicholas Lalla, assistant vice president for urban innovation at NYCEDC and project lead for Cyber NYC. "By New York City establishing itself as a leader through this Cyber NYC, we're signaling the criticality of cybersecurity. We're saying cybersecurity will be a permanent fixture in the world economy and our lives."
The plan calls for the creation of a Global Cyber Center and an Innovation Hub. Its primary goals are to create up to 10,000 middle-class jobs and position the city as one of the world's biggest centers for cybersecurity activity.
Meeting a global need
Government and business leaders believe Cyber NYC could have ripple effects far beyond the city's boundaries.
The cybersecurity initiative focuses on driving innovation in the cyber protection space, promoting thought leadership around the topic and training cybersecurity experts -- all of which will help organizations throughout the world better defend themselves against hackers and other cyberthreats.
"The value of this work will trickle down to organizations everywhere," said Yoav Tzruya, a general partner with Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). The NYCEDC selected JVP, an international venture capital firm, to establish a cybersecurity investment hub, or Hub.NYC, for the overall Cyber NYC initiative.
Nicholas Lallaproject lead for Cyber NYC
New York City's drive to build a robust cybersecurity industry came after civic and business leaders identified a gap in the marketplace, Lalla said.
When announcing the creation of Cyber NYC, officials pointed to some startling statistics from the "2017 Cybersecurity Jobs Report" from Cybersecurity Ventures. Those figures indicate that a cybersecurity attack occurs every 40 seconds around the globe, with more than 3.8 billion internet users affected by cyberattacks in 2017.
Noting that New York City is home to 45 Fortune 500 companies and is a global center of financial services -- both frequent targets for hackers -- city officials believe they should play a leading role in creating a cybersecurity epicenter.
The city's nearly 100 colleges and universities, its venture capital community, and, of course, its corporate environment create more incentives to develop the city's cybersecurity vision.
But Lalla said Cyber NYC isn't designed solely to bolster the city's position or economic opportunities. It is also a response to real industry needs.
"We found that while New York City had all the ingredients to be a global cybersecurity leader, it wasn't happening fast enough," he said. New York City vendors in the cybersecurity trade, along with academics, investors and others who support and foster innovation, hadn't formed any sort of unified effort to advance the field.
Meanwhile, Lalla said organizations seeking to hire cybersecurity experts faced a severe talent shortage -- a common problem throughout the country. Trade organization (ISC)2 last year polled 1,500 cybersecurity and IT professionals around the globe and found that 63% of the participating organizations faced a shortage of IT staff dedicated to cybersecurity. Moreover, nearly 60% of respondents said the shortage put their companies at moderate or even extreme risk of cybersecurity attacks.
Programs designed to address lacking cybersecurity
Two of the six distinct programs within Cyber NYC address the need for more cybersecurity workers.
One is the Applied Learning Initiative, with the City University of New York (CUNY), Columbia University, Cornell Tech, iQ4 and New York University developing courses to train cyber specialists through new certifications and degree programs. The other is the Cyber Boot Camp, for which Fullstack Academy and CUNY's LaGuardia Community College have created additional cybersecurity training programs.
Cyber NYC also features the Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge, a global competition aimed at bringing to market new security technologies that can defend small businesses. There is also Inventors to Founders, Columbia University's effort to connect academic inventors of patented cybersecurity technologies with entrepreneurs to create cybersecurity startups.
The sixth component is the Global Cyber Center, billed as a center for curated programs and events to foster collaboration and build a cyber community. NYCEDC selected SOSA, an Israeli firm with expertise in innovation and building communities, to establish and run the center from a renovated space in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood.
"We invite and encourage the leading industry players and investors to join us," said Uzi Scheffer, SOSA CEO. "That's the purpose of the whole thing -- to join this community of innovators and be part of a business platform to help them find the security solutions they're looking for."