San Antonio TX area teams currently registered for CyberPatriot IX

CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program. At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services in a six hour period. Teams compete for the top placement within their state and region, and the top teams in the nation earn all-expenses paid trips to Baltimore, MD for the National Finals Competition where they can earn national recognition and scholarship money.

Cyber venture led by U.S. intel vets with SA roots raises seed capital

A cybersecurity venture created by three former U.S. intelligence analysts with local roots got an influx of capital recently to further its development of software to protect critical infrastructure owned by private industry — like the electric grid.

Dragos Inc. is a hybrid product and services startup that creates cybersecurity tools for businesses to hunt for unauthorized users lurking around industrial control systems inside their networks, from nuclear power plants to chemical manufacturers.

The startup raised $1.2 million from DataTribe — described as a startup studio, which is a mix between an angel incubator and a venture capital firm — based in the Washington, D.C., region.

The seed capital is being used to build a threat operations center, or a cybersecurity analyst hub, that can hunt remotely for known and unknown “threat actors” inside a company’s infrastructure.

It costs about $1 million to hire specialized analysts and the equipment needed for the center, according to estimates from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Most threat operations centers focus on hunting for hackers or malware across a company’s computer system, not typically industrial control systems.

DataTribe is an investor group focused on military veteran-led companies looking to commercialize products across cybersecurity from big data to the Internet of Things. It is backed by Deloitte, Allegis Capital and Yahoo Japan.

Alamo City ties

While Dragos has its main office at DataTribe, the startup has a satellite office in San Antonio for now and aims to hire more cybersecurity analysts in the Alamo City in the coming months.

That’s because the company’s co-founder and CEO, Robert Lee, has lived in San Antonio for years after he was transferred to Joint Base San Antonio Lackland Air Force Base. For about five years, he worked as a cyberwarfare operations officer. Lee is now pursuing a doctorate in war studies at King’s College of London focusing on the attack and defense of control systems alongside developing Dragos.

A few years ago, Dragos built a cybersecurity tool called CyberLens that enabled businesses to watch unauthorized users navigate their networks, like a magnifying glass, although it is not the focus of the company’s products currently under development.

The startup aims to stand out from its competitors, mostly high-growth tech startups based in Israel, by leveraging experience securing the U.S. infrastructure while in the military.

“A lot of what’s being developed in the market are built by pure software developers, so they are difficult to use for analysts,” Lee said in a recent interview. “We have our threat operations center not only generating revenue but driving the development of future workflow and tools so that our platform is easier to use for security analysts.”

Assembling a team

In September, Dragos hired Ben Miller — former associate director at the Electricity Information Sharing & Analysis Center created by the North American Electricity Reliability Corp. — to lead its threat operations center.

The other company co-founders were stationed at Fort Meade, an Army post in Maryland with a high concentration of cyberwarfare-related activity, before forming Dragos.

Co-founder Jon Lavender worked as a data scientist and senior network analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense in Maryland for nearly eight years. Justin Cavinee was a software developer and senior network analyst for the Defense Department.

Dragos was one of several companies from the private sector selected recently to begin working on a test bed with the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The university was awarded an $18 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop technology that would enable the U.S. electric grid to recover after an attack on its infrastructure.

Dragos was founded in 2013 under the name Dragos Security LLC and was later incorporated as Dragos Inc. Matthew Luallen was one of the Dragos Security co-founders, and in September he started a new company, CYBATI, which focuses on education in critical infrastructure and control system cybersecurity.

Jungle Disk Launches Weekly Cybersecurity Radio Show

With cybersecurity affecting many aspects of everyday life – from cyberhacking and breaches of personal datadevices connected to the internet, and even voter databases – the new Cyber Talk Radio show on News Radio 1200 WOAI fills a growing need to stay current on the latest in the technology industry, especially the cybersecurity space.

Jungle Disk CEO Bret Piatt hosts the weekly show and features guest speakers who discuss cloud computing, cybersecurity, and internet trends facing businesses in industries such as health care, financial services, real estate, and legal professions.

The Rivard Report interviewed Piatt to find out more about the new Cyber Talk Radio show.

Rivard Report: How and why did you decide to launch this radio show?

Bret Piatt: WOAI came to our Jungle Disk ribbon cutting and said they’ve been looking for someone to host a cybersecurity radio show. This sounds like a lot of work, but we’re passionate about this.

We feel like it’s a matter of preparation and taking advantage of an opportunity. We have a great team at Jungle Disk, with some of our staff who happen to be sound engineers. We were able to build a sound recording studio right here in the (Jungle Disk) office. On our team, we have the people that are experts at building a recording studio and (editing) sound.

We’re passionate about doing this weekly show because we think it’s important to help our listeners by telling local cybersecurity stories. We’re at a point now where we can devote the time and resources to highlighting these local stories.

RR: What’s the general format for the show?

BP: We do a long format sit down interview discussion with experts on various cyber topics. We’re on air for an hour. The first half of the hour we’re generally going through the high level explanation of the topic and providing detailed background. Then in the second half, we have the cybersecurity related discussion on that topic with our guest expert.

We broadcast Saturday at 11 p.m. on 1200 WOAI. We catch the folks leaving the Spurs game, or the ones relaxing on a Saturday night.

In case of a late running West Coast Spurs game we get bumped to a new time – and that’s understandable.

RR: What has the reaction to the show been so far?

BP: The audience is growing every week. The show is now available on the iTunes podcast service after the fifth episode. You’ll see 10 segments so far, with each show split into the learning segment and the cybersecurity segment.

We have gotten multiple requests for guests to come on the show to talk about various cybersecurity topics. That’s the first major milestone – when you have a queue of guests lined up waiting for opportunities to come on the show.

RR: What do you hope to accomplish with this show?

BP: We have guests lined up through the end of the year, with some slots still open in December. We intend to discuss relevant cyber topics which are new even for a highly technical audience, but we’ll use the learning segments to help frame the topic for a general audience. In short, we aim to cover cyber topics typical for the WOAI business listener, “from the dark web to your radio dial.”

To tune into the show live, listen to News Radio 1200 WOAI on Saturdays at 11 p.m.

On Nov.5, Piatt will speak with Paul Querna of Scale FT discuss authentication security and identity management.

UTSA cyber researcher building tools to weed out dishonesty online

 Raymond Choo, a former police officer in Singapore turned cybersecurity research professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is developing software to detect dishonesty online by running software that scans the internet for similar writing patterns.

The pilot software hones in on word choices, punctuation and context and is able to discern whether multiple comments came from the same source. Sometimes marketers use fake social media accounts to bolster the ranking of businesses on social media and websites that have public reviews of products and services.

As more businesses collect data about how customers interact with companies online, and often dedicate resources to respond to them on social media networks, this type of tool could be used to parse out trolls or artificial intelligence powered posts.

The initial process of this recent study uses n-gram, or a sequence of letters, that can be parsed through for analysis.

“In the initial research we tried to search using psychometric profiles or methods that could be used in intrusion detection and through the course of that research we discovered that — even though sometimes we try to disguise ourselves — our writing gives us away,” said Choo, the new associate professor of Information Systems and Cyber Security at UTSA

The goal is to eventually commercialize the software, but the race against threat actors, or individuals with malicious intent, to develop something that can outlast their techniques remains challenging.

“In the longer term, we are not going to restrict ourselves to n-gram,” said Choo. “We are in the process of fine tuning a few statistical algorithms into something that we can use.”