The city of San Diego on Tuesday launched the Regional Cyber Lab to help small businesses and local public agencies combat cyberattacks.
The city received $928,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to start the lab. The goal is to bolster local cybersecurity through collaboration and coordination.
“We are trying to do threat information sharing. So if there are new threats that are out there, we can share those across our participating organizations and then also building defenses, monitoring,” said Jonathan Behnke, chief information officer for the city. “And we want to also offer mutual aid resources in the event of a cyberattack.”
Cybercrime is a huge problem, not only for government agencies but also for small businesses. Around 42% of small businesses were affected by cyberattacks last year, according to AdvisorSmith, a cybersecurity consultant company.
“If cybercrime was its own economy — world economy — it would be the third largest after the U.S. and China,” said Darren Bennett, the city’s chief information security officer.
That’s why the cyber lab is here, he said, to share resources and spot vulnerabilities.
“The bad guys are really good at sharing the information when they find out that there’s a vulnerability or an issue,” Bennet said. “We need to be really good at sharing the threats that we’re seeing and what we’re doing that’s successful in preventing those threats.”
The lab is a resource that Cory Flores wished was available last year. Cyber thieves stole nearly $28,000 from his small business through a vulnerability in his billing system.
“That was literally my first year in business, I mean, I’m lucky that it didn’t bury me completely,” he said.
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small businesses fold within six months of a cyberattack. For Flores, who runs a company that does biohazard clean-up at crime scenes and homeless encampments, the attack also affected him emotionally.
“It was kind of hard for me to get back on to on track,” he said. “To be honest, it’s been a grind to get just back on track.”
The city designed and developed the cyber lab with the help of cybersecurity experts, academic professionals and local CEOs and public officials from the region.
The lab is also a resource to help public agencies and small businesses prevent and protect against cyberattacks.
“There’s a great tool that’s part of the program called Cyber Catch, which allows a tabletop exercise and it’s at the business level. It’s really not at the technology level,” Behnke said. “What to do if there’s a ransomware attack, how would you respond? And really getting businesses organized and prepared for the different types of cyber attacks.”
For more information about the resources available at the Regional Cyber Lab, visit sandiego.gov/cyber-lab.