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Finding Data For Cybersecurity Industry Still Difficult

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Cybersecurity is a nearly $90 billion industry with an unemployment rate of zero percent, so cities across the country want to grow it locally. But finding all the variables for an industry steeped in secrecy can be difficult. Fewer variables can mean less effective strategies for gaining ground in an increasingly competitive market.

San Antonio's proximity to the NSA as well as the 24th and 25th Air Force means the community is rife with industry professionals. The city often boasts that it has more cybersecurity professionals than any place in the U.S. outside of the D.C. region. But getting actual numbers on information security employees is very difficult says Cyber Security San Antonio Director, Will Garrett.

"We have a massive Air Force intelligence community here. The numbers themselves, a lot of them are classified by nature, so it's next to impossible in that sense to determine actual numbers," says Garrett.

And that goes for contractors too. When a company like Booz Allen Hamilton expands, it sometimes can't release employee data because those workers are consulting with the government, often co-locating on a base or in a federal office.

And for those doing nonfederal work, the numbers remain murky says Natasha Cohen, a cyber security consultant who recently analyzed San Antonio's industry. Cohen says often when an information security person works for a hospital, bank or financial services vendor -- like a USAA -- it is common for them to be counted by the state and feds as a health or financial worker.

"If  you're doing economic impact analysis studies, a lot of that data is taken from tax information. And if cybersecurity isn't separated from everything else, getting an accurate read on that is really hard," says Cohen.

Corporate America still wrestles with how to break down what they are spending on cybersecurity as well. Cybersecurity concerns are wrapped up in everything from an office buildout to developing an app, spreading itself into traditional budget areas.

"How do you actually roll that up on what the company is spending on cybersecurity? Because those kinds of metrics are incredibly important in terms of reporting to the board, in terms of risk mitigation," she explains.

But developing the industry isn't just reading tea leaves, says Cohen. There are other metrics, for instance company impressions.

"It's talking to people. It's understanding trends. It's seeing how people in the industry are feeling," says Cohen.

And many San Antonio firms TPR has talked to say they are experiencing growth.

"We're experiencing tremendous growth locally," says Digital Defense CEO Larry Hurtado

Hurtado says most in the industry are feeling the increase in business.

"Every time there's a high profile breach, every time something else hits the news, then it obviously continues to raise awareness to organizations that they need to do something,"  he  says.

So companies are feeling good.

Another metric that Garrett and Cohen point to is the number of companies entering the market.

"What we have here is the first phase of the 'Project Tech' development. So the first building is underway right now. We broke ground in April," says VP of communications at Port San Antonio Paco Felici, pointing at the Port's future $20 million dollar building, a bet on cybersecurity and other tech.

Felici is driving us around  the 1900 acre Port campus. Many cybersecurity firms have moved into the the former home of Kelly Air Force base in the past 18 months. According to Felici, five have either expanded significantly or moved in. 

So another metric looks good for San Antonio, but area industry leaders are not content with the amount of data we have, says Will Garrett. He along with the Chamber of Commerce's Cybersecurity Industry Council want more so they know if their strategies actually work, and they are asking themselves tough questions.

"How do we get hard numbers behind data that we can't specifically get numbers behind, even if it isn't down to the exact percentile?" asks Garrett.

To that end, they will begin with an analysis of San Antonio's talent pool, aggregating graduate data from Universities, training programs, and when possible the military to determine the trends in where the talent comes from, where it goes, and what the skills are.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org