With the state’s cybersecurity industry centered on the U.S. Cyber Command near Fort Meade in central Maryland, Montgomery County staked its own claim to the cybersecurity industry this week.
Leaders of 11 top high-tech companies — including Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. — signed a partnership agreement with a fairly new Rockville-based center on cybersecurity, pledging to work together to further that growing industry.
The companies will help the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence — an agency formed a year ago by the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology, Montgomery County and the state of Maryland — develop leading-edge technology to combat hackers and other cyber-criminals, officials said.
“Cybersecurity is one of those areas that requires effective partnerships with the private sector,” said Patrick Gallagher, director of NIST, which is based in Gaithersburg.
In 2011, more than 174 million records were hacked into worldwide, costing businesses billions of dollars, according to federal figures.
Intel and other businesses are providing consultation services and helping test products on an in-kind basis to the Rockville center. The work will benefit important national initiatives, such as health information technology. With that, more cybersecurity businesses are expected to crop up in Montgomery and Frederick counties.
“We expect that it will result in disseminating technology into the community to help generate start-up companies here,” said Thomas Gann, vice president for government relations at McAfee and a Montgomery County resident. McAfee of Santa Clara, Calif., is a cybersecurity subsidiary of Intel.
Bethesda defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. is among Montgomery companies already involved in the industry. In 2009, Lockheed opened the 25,000-square-foot NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center in Gaithersburg with a technology data center, high-definition video teleconferencing section and computing platforms for experiments and design activities.
State-of-the-art, virtual labs have been built at Montgomery College to allow students to study firewall security and other aspects.
At the Rockville center, Intel and other companies will also provide some products, such as hardware and software for mobile devices that can be used to track Internet criminals, said Gavin O’Brien, a NIST computer scientist.
The U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade is expected to boost its personnel figures to 5,000 in the next few years from 900 now, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said. He was among the more than 100 public and private leaders who attended the signing ceremony at the center’s headquarters on the Universities at Shady Grove campus.
“Those are federal government jobs,” O’Malley said. “There will be a lot more private-sector jobs created as a result of that.”
NIST was picked to lead the federal portion of the partnership due to its strong ties and previous work with private companies, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) said. The federal government budgeted $10 million in fiscal 2012 to get the center rolling and is contributing millions of dollars more to the effort, she said.
Other companies that signed agreements included Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, HyTrust, RSA, Splunk, Symantec Corp. and Venafi.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and National Security Agency Chief Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who heads the Fort Meade Cyber Command, also attended.
The center’s headquarters on the USG campus in Rockville are temporary, and officials seek permanent space with a goal of remaining in Montgomery County, said Jennifer Huergo, a spokeswoman for NIST.