By Marie Szaniszlo
Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday called cybersecurity “one of the major challenges” Massachusetts faces, citing a recent 30 percent increase in attacks in the state.
“This isn’t just about hackers,” Baker said at a meeting of business, university and government leaders convened by Mass Insight Global Partnerships to shape a recommended growth agenda for the new administration. “It’s about governments. It’s about businesses.”
The governor cited as one high-profile example the breach of Target’s point-of-sale devices, which exposed approximately 40 million debit and credit card accounts in late 2013.
Such advanced threats underscore the need to create the “next generation of tools,” in a state that ranks ninth in the number of cybersecurity jobs in the country, he said.
Yet the number of professionals in the field in Massachusetts is not enough to meet the demand, said Charlie Benway, executive director of the Advanced Cyber Security Center, a Bedford nonprofit consortium Mass Insight established in 2011.
Data from Boston-based labor analytics firm Burning Glass shows the number of cybersecurity job postings grew 74 percent from 2007 to 2013 — more than twice the growth rate of all IT jobs.
The center’s proposal is a multi-university, cross-discipline, research and development consortium — funded by the industry and the state — bringing together graduate and postdoctoral students to work on research projects aligned with industry’s interests, Benway said.
States such as New York and California are making such investments on a larger scale than Massachusetts, William Guenther, chairman and CEO of Mass Insight Global Partnerships, told the Herald.
“We can do better to compete,” Guenther said.
Maryland, for example, has a cybersecurity cluster around Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the National Security Agency, while Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has long been a leader in the field, said former University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson, who is on the board of the Advanced Cyber Security Center.
“In the cybersecurity area, we are playing catch-up,” Wilson told the Herald. “Shame on us. We have many more resources here, but less collective organization. We are still too fragmented.”
In states such as Maryland, governors have taken an “activist” position, he said.
“We have not done that yet,” Wilson said, “and frankly, that’s why it’s a huge opportunity for the governor … The next big thing he could take credit for is the development of a cybersecurity cluster in Massachusetts.”