DakotaCon Highlights South Dakota’s Role in Cybersecurity

As our daily lives grow increasingly reliant on technology, we need to understand how to best protect ourselves, our businesses and our country from a cyberattack. Governments and businesses around the world are continuously improving their cyber defense strategies, and they are being advised by companies and experts right here in South Dakota. I recently had the privilege to speak at DakotaCon 2016, a three-day cybersecurity conference at Dakota State University (DSU) in Madison, where the top minds in cybersecurity from all over the world gathered to discuss the latest cybersecurity developments. 

DSU is the ideal backdrop for such an event. As one of just 14 universities endorsed by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Operations, DSU was the first college in the entire nation to offer a degree in cybersecurity. Today, 1 out of 3 students at DSU studies computer science or cybersecurity in some capacity. Since 2012, the university has seen an 83 percent increase in students pursuing one of its three cybersecurity degrees, and more than 80 percent of their students were raised within 100 miles of campus. It has become a national model for success in producing our cyber workforce, the demand for which is growing rapidly.

By the year 2019, Symantec CEO Michael Brown recently predicted that the demand for cybersecurity professionals would grow to 6 million and have a shortfall of 1.5 million. In order to adequately protect our nation’s networks and maintain our information security dominance in the future, we must make certain our workforce can meet these increased demands. And that is happening at DSU, which is working to keep cybersecurity jobs right here in South Dakota.


As we continue our work on cybersecurity, I believe we must establish business-friendly standards for the federal government and the private sector in order to protect consumer information. This can be accomplished by supporting public sector investment in network security, being vigilant in handling national security cyber threats, and providing legal clarity on permissible tools so cybersecurity professionals can do their job with confidence.


There is a great amount of work to be done to meet the many challenges of cybersecurity, but I am confident we will meet these challenges. Just as the American pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit founded our nation, settled the West, won two World Wars and put a man on the moon; so can we conquer the cyber world and mitigate its threats. We have the most innovative military and economy in the world. And we have men and women - like our students, teachers and business people in Madison - committed to addressing cybersecurity concerns in the 21st century.


I hope that DakotaCon 2016 has furthered the dialogue as to how we can best protect our citizens, our military and the federal government from cyber threats.