$4M Cybersecurity Hub Approved for Port of San Antonio

The city council recently approved an agreement worth $4 million to develop the Alamo Regional Security Operations Center at the Port of San Antonio. The hub will serve as a regional center for cybersecurity best practices.

by Diego Mendoza-Moyers, San Antonio Express-News / June 22, 2020
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(TNS) — In the ongoing recession, San Antonio is sticking with one of the industries it knows best: cybersecurity.

The City Council this week approved a $4 million agreement with Port San Antonio that will allow the city to develop the Alamo Regional Security Operations Center. The 20,000 square-foot space that will serve as the cybersecurity hub for municipal government and city-related agencies.

The center will be located at 938 Davy Crockett Road on the Port’s Southwest Side campus.

The ARSOC will be a cybersecurity information-sharing facility that initially will house experts from the city, CPS Energy, San Antonio Water System and VIA Metropolitan Transit, according to documents filed by the city.

“ARSOC itself represents a national example of a collaborative community working toward enhanced cybersecurity and critical infrastructure security and resiliency,” said Will Garrett, vice president and director of cybersecurity development at the port. “The integrated security operations center is effectively increasing our ability to provide cybersecurity services to the city and to the community as a whole.”

The center builds on efforts in recent years by the city to develop a high-wage cybersecurity industry in San Antonio.

The city agreed to lease the space from Port San Antonio rent-free for 15 years, with a renewal option after five years. The city will chip in $1.2 million along with a $1.5 million contribution from CPS to design and build out the facility.

Another $1.29 million in city funds will go toward purchasing furniture and equipment.

Construction on the facility will be completed sometime in the first quarter of 2021, said Craig Hopkins, chief information officer for the city of San Antonio.

“What we want to become is a model urban cybersecurity center of excellence,” Hopkins said, “where we could reign municipal agencies together into one place physically, but also share data, share talent, share knowledge, train together, respond to events together, all in one community operations center.”

The ARSOC will cost $150,000 annually to operate, which will come out of the city’s information technology services department budget.

CPS will sublease space at the center from the city.

“This enhanced partnership and investment are being pursued to protect our customers and their information,” utility officials said in a statement. “It was already planned and will not take away from the activities and funding resources that we have allocated to help customers in need.

“The ARSOC is necessary to protect our critical infrastructure from cyberthreats so that we can continue to deliver safe, affordable, reliable, and secure power to our customers,” the company said.

Cybersecurity attacks on municipalities became more frequent last year. More than 170 municipal entities were attacked in 2019, up 52 percent compared with 2018, according to antivirus software provider Kaspersky.

Last fall, 22 Texas towns were hit in a coordinated ransomware attack by hackers, one of the largest attacks on municipal governments that the U.S. has seen. Ransomware is a type of malware that locks users out of their devices until they pay a ransom to regain access.

“We’re constantly under attack from foreign nation states, internal organizations, and all you’ve got to do to put details together is look at the cities that have been ransomwared — that alone is the primary threat that we’re trying to alleviate,” Hopkins said.

“Smaller agencies: VIA, SAWS, the Bexar County Appraisal District, they don’t even have cyberteams, or they have one person trying to figure out what to do,” he said. “So what we’ve got now is the ability to collaborate and share resources.”

Garrett said he expects that the center will eventually grow to serve communities across South Texas.

Officials at the port have a “mid-term goal of this becoming a resource to a much broader region of Central and Southwest Texas,” Garrett said, “so that other local municipalities, even within Bexar County, can plug into ARSOC, participate and get threat intelligence feeds, and protect their own municipalities and local governments in a more effective way.”

Port San Antonio’s 1,900-acre campus is home to more than 80 companies, military agencies and nonprofits, with a combined workforce of 14,000.

The city is directing $75 million to job training programs to help workers who have lost their job learn skills and transition to a new career. Cybersecurity is one of the top industries that city leaders have said they want to train workers for.

“We absolutely expect this, from an economic development standpoint, to create wins down the road as it grows,” Garrett said.

©2020 the San Antonio Express-News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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