A strong case can be made that Montgomery County is becoming the center of the cybersecurity universe, if it isn’t there already.
For starters, more than 140 cybersecurity companies are located within the county’s borders, not to mention a selection of federal agencies that focus on cybersecurity specialties.
Rockville is headquarters for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), where business organizations, academic institutions, and other government agencies work alongside NCCoE engineers to address a diverse array of today's cybersecurity challenges.
Bethesda is home to the SANS Institute, which boasts a wealth of academic and training resources that reach 165,000 security professionals worldwide, making it the largest source for information security training on the planet.
Secret Weapon: Cryptonite
One of the many cybersecurity companies thriving in Montgomery County is Rockville’s Cryptonite, which launched in 2015. The company's Cryptonite NXT solution features a disruptive technology designed to catch attacks before they start propagating into organizations, making it less of a burden for any company to protect itself, says Michael Simon, CEO. Cryptonite’s technology makes it difficult for hackers to identify the vulnerabilities that exist on a network while also “limiting the attack surface,” says Simon, providing fewer access points for hackers to get in.
Simon expects Cryptonite to grow rapidly in the coming years via strategic partnerships with public companies and contracts with the federal government.
“Typically it takes a lot of people to investigate the results of cybersecurity sensors. We’re dramatically reducing the amount of information that human beings have to investigate,” says Simon.
He notes that the region is bulking up as a hub for cybersecurity, a trend he expects to continue, with the cyber realm being “the next [big] avenue of military operations.”
Another company that has expanded rapidly since opening its doors in 2009 is TISTA Science & Technology Corporation, a veteran-owned business that provides cyber services for more than 20 federal clients.
“We have expertise in every aspect of cybersecurity and it’s something we do for a lot of Department of Defense agencies,” says Eric Smith, executive vice president.
Montgomery County is ideal for a company like TISTA for several reasons, Smith says. “First, Montgomery County is very competitive when it comes to facilities. Second, it is strategically placed in the center of a lot of different government agencies,” he says, noting several of TISTA’s customers are within a 10-mile radius of the company’s headquarters.
Third, the county is an attractive place to both live and work. “Our retention rate has always been well over 90 percent,” Smith says. “Part of that is location. People build homes close to our offices and that’s one of the big reasons we are able to retain our staff.”
Executive leadership of e-Management, which provides enterprise IT and cybersecurity services for both government agencies and private organizations, doesn’t hesitate to sing the praises of Montgomery County.
CEO Ola Sage says the advantages of being based in Silver Spring include proximity to customers, access to a highly educated and diverse talent pool, and access to research institutions like the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
And it's an area rich in cultural assets, including The Fillmore Silver Spring and the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, to name but two.
Sage is hopeful that the future growth of the local cybersecurity industry has a distinct entrepreneurial benefit.
“I would love to see Montgomery County be the place where entrepreneurs come to start and grow their cybersecurity companies and where more of the brightest minds in the field choose to work and live,” she says.
“It’s certainly a good environment to be in if you are looking to start up a cybersecurity business,” says Tim McBride, deputy director of the NCCoE.
Many cybersecurity companies are born from a spinout of the many government agencies in the region, he notes.
“And there are a lot of colleges and universities focusing on cybersecurity. Being a geographically desirable place with the right talent pool and the right mix of growth and industry, there is a lot of growth potential here,” he says.