Cybersecurity industry analysts expect the market to grow more than 50 percent in the next four years even as other types of defense spending are expected to flatten or decline, creating new opportunities for workers and businesses in Maryland.
The analysts presented their findings last week at the CyberMaryland conference in Baltimore.
Information security professionals have to wade through an overwhelming amount of digital data every day to monitor for cyber threats — an increasingly cumbersome workload that will create new opportunities for federal contractors and workers, said John Slye, a federal industry research analyst with GovWin, a market intelligence and software company.
"It's no longer like drinking from a firehose," said Slye. "It's like drinking from the ocean."
CyberMaryland Chairman Rick Geritz told conference attendees that government agencies and businesses will be hiring plenty of graduates of Maryland schools in the coming years.
"We need every parent to know there is a great opportunity in front of them," Geritz said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley and other Maryland leaders tout the state's prominence in the national cybersecurity industry, thanks in part to the presence of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.
The Army base in Anne Arundel County is also home to the U.S. Cyber Command, which coordinates the defense of the country's military networks.
The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has worked to promote the state's friendliness to cybersecurity companies. O'Malley created CyberMaryland, a public-private partnership, to promote the state's assets and access to the cybersecurity market.
Slye said the federal government is straining under a glut of data and needs better tools to continuously analyze large amounts of data in real time. Companies that can develop tools to help government professionals identify cyber threats and help professionals make critical decisions more quickly are in high demand, he said.
The government has been unable so far to agree on a policy by which government agencies and vulnerable private businesses could share cyber threat information.
The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which was supported by President Barack Obama, drew criticism from both business groups, who feared escalating costs, and civil liberties advocates, who worried about intrusions on privacy. The legislation failed in the Senate.
But even in the absence of legislation, cybersecurity spending by the Defense Department will continue to follow policies put in place years ago, and grow from $4.4 billion in 2011, to $6.7 billion in 2016, Slye projects.
Cybersecurity spending in civilian agencies will grow from $2.6 billion last year to $3.8 billion in four years, he said.
And spending by intelligence agencies, which is often obscured and difficult to forecast precisely, is expected to climb from $2.3 billion last year, to $3.6 billion in 2016, he said.
Part of what's fueling the increases: Government officials are worried about incursions from hackers tied to organized crime, foreign nations, and so-called "hacktivists" who try to access protected or classified information over the Internet to further their own causes.
The number of cyber incidents tracked by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, spiked from 5,500 in 2006 to 43,900 last year, Slye said.
Most of the incidents involved improper use, unauthorized access and the introduction of malicious code to government networks.
Maryland continues to be positioned well to reap economic benefits from increased federal spending on cybersecurity. The state has more than 19,000 current cybersecurity job openings, with more than 13,000 in Baltimore.
The top four companies looking to hire the most cybersecurity professionals in Maryland are ManTech International, SAIC, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, according to the report.
Gary Tartanian, an electrical engineer for the National Security Agency, said the agency is in the midst of one of its busiest hiring years in Maryland. He said the agency is looking to hire 800 to 1,000 people, or more, in this fiscal year.
"We're hiring across a very broad range of disciplines," Tartanian said, and named computer science, engineering, mathematics, and foreign languages.
"We need people capable of critical thinking," Tartanian said. "We're in the business of problem solving and connecting the dots."
But despite the jobs demand, cybersecurity may suffer from a public relations problem. Michael T. Wood, president of Capitol College in Laurel, which educates information technology workers, said that most young people are thinking about "becoming the next Ray Lewis."
"We have to help them become unafraid of mathematics," he said.
Top 5 cybersecurity job markets by job openings
Palo Alto, Calif.: 17,570
San Francisco: 13,710
Baltimore region: 13,393 (Maryland: 19,413 total)
Source: 2012 Maryland Cyber Security Jobs report, by CyberMaryland
Federal cybersecurity spending forecast
(Defense and civilian agency spending)
2011: 9.2 billion
2012: $10.3 billion
2013: $11.6 billion
2014: $12.7 billion
2015: $13.4 billion
2016: $14 billion