The Florida Center for Cybersecurity, also known as Cyber Florida, is a state-funded organization dedicated to positioning Florida as a national leader in cybersecurity through education and workforce development; innovative, interdisciplinary research; and community outreach.
Hosted at the University of South Florida, Cyber Florida works with all of the twelve State University System of Florida (SUS) institutions as well as industry, government and defense to build partnerships and develop programs that grow and strengthen Florida’s cybersecurity industry.
Cyber Florida was formally established as the Florida Center for Cybersecurity through Florida Statute 1004.444 in July 2014, hosted by the University of South Florida for the benefit of the entire SUS and the state. Led by Director Sri Sridharan, a seasoned expert and entrepreneur, the goals of the center are to assist in the creation of jobs, enhance the existing workforce, act as a cooperative facilitator between industry and higher education, seek out partnerships with major military installations, and attract cybersecurity companies to the state.
Guided by a nationally recognized Board of Advisors with former Director of National Intelligence Vice Adm. (Ret.) Mike McConnell as chair, Cyber Florida first focused on enhancing Florida’s cybersecurity talent pipeline to meet the overwhelming demand for cyber professionals. The center created a platform for collaboration among the 12 SUS institutions by establishing the SUS Cybersecurity Advisory Council and acts as a liaison with private industry to ensure academic programs align with industry needs. Additionally, Cyber Florida has invested more than $1.4 million to help fund 24 of these new programs through its Capacity Building Award Program. With Cyber Florida’s support, the SUS has expanded academic programs specific to cybersecurity from a handful in 2014 to more than 40 as of 2018, with several hundred graduates and thousands more enrolled.
And because the hands-on-keyboard experience is such a vital component of a successful cybersecurity educational program, Cyber Florida launched the Florida CyberHub in January 2018. This virtual learning lab provides a cyber range, secure sandbox, capture-the-flag, course catalog, and desktop-as-a-service to facilitate and enhance cyber education and research initiatives throughout the state.
The center also has laid the foundation for a robust research ecosystem in Florida through the Collaborative Seed Award Program, which funds research projects led by investigators from at least two SUS institutions. Cyber Florida has invested more than $2.3 million in 44 cybersecurity research projects led by 65 researchers so far, and these projects are highlighted at an annual Research Symposium where both scholars and practitioners can explore the cutting-edge research being done at Florida’s universities.
In tandem with these initiatives and others, Cyber Florida has continued to grow its signature event year after year, the annual conference. Each year, the Florida Cyber Conference connects hundreds of cybersecurity stakeholders from students, educators, and policymakers to CISOs, hands-on practitioners, and members of the defense and law enforcement communities. Held in Tampa each October and coming up on its fifth year, Florida Cyber Conference has rapidly grown to become one of the most popular and valuable industry events for Florida’s cybersecurity community.