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Securing Our eCity conference

Panelists see opportunity to build new economic cluster in San Diego

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All one has to do is look at the large Naval ships docked near downtown to see the defense industry's presence in San Diego. However, not all aspects of the industry are so readily visible.

At the Securing Our eCity conference on May 5, the members of the local defense industry gathered to hear representatives from the federal, state and local governments as well as private entrepreneurs discuss the pitfalls of current cyber security and how San Diego can become a leader in the space.

"We have an opportunity to build a new economic cluster in San Diego of cyber security," said Ruben Barrales, president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce.

ESET, a computer security supplier, and the San Diego Chamber of commerce lead the Securing Our eCity coalition, with its main focus on education to prevent cyber crime. The initiative was started in April 2009 and has grown. There are almost 200 stakeholders including members of businesses, law enforcement and public officials.

While the Internet is an entity that spans the globe, panel members during six different sessions discussed San Diego's role in promoting safe practices on the Web.

The panelists agreed the first step toward a safer cyber future is teaching individuals how to protect themselves at work and at home.

"It's the human machine that needs to be reconfigured through education and training," said the state of California's deputy chief information security officer, Patrick McGuire.

But technological advances are being made to promote a safer e-city as well, and that’s where many of the Securing Our eCity stakeholders see an opportunity for San Diego-based businesses.

With many high-tech companies already in the area, Securing Our eCity panelists said San Diego has the right talent pool for cyber security businesses.

But before cyber security can expand, it needs to start on a smaller scale, said Shirley Adams, president of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) and chair of the board for the San Diego chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

"We know if we want change to happen we need to look in the mirror and change ourselves first," Adams said.

The impact of creating a cyber security hub would not be limited to the local region.

Panelists repeated a message that the Internet is an international tool, and that cooperation at federal and international levels is crucial to a safe cyber world.

Mike Dayton, California's deputy director of legislative affairs, said all cyber attacks start local, but their impact can spread to larger levels quickly. He said it is important for all levels of government to coordinate their efforts in order to create a streamlined fashion of dealing with security issues.

Panelists suggested a system of laws in place that are understood at all levels of law enforcement.

What gets complicated, he and several other panelists said, is that there is not always cooperation from foreign governments.

Chief Executive of the National Cyber Security Alliance Michael Kaiser said there is a point when certain crimes are simply out of the control of the U.S. government.

"You can't look at some of these larger issues that are out of our control," he said. "We have to solve the problems we can solve."

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