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UTSA hosts executive forum to advance collaboration with energy cybersecurity partners

(Oct. 19, 2018) -- Government, university and industry leaders gathered at the UTSA Downtown Campus today to advance the partnerships that position San Antonio as a test bed for energy cybersecurity preparedness. The 2018 South Texas Energy Cybersecurity Forum brought together top leaders from across San Antonio, Texas, the military and intelligence communities, and the private sector.

University of Texas System Regent Rad Weaver introduced UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, who delivered opening remarks at the meeting. U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry delivered the keynote address.

“We are here to reaffirm—in the strongest possible terms—our shared commitment to America’s national security and energy security,” said Perry. “As part of that commitment, we remain dedicated to protecting our energy infrastructure, and to ensuring the reliable, uninterrupted flow of our energy and electricity. Achieving these goals is a national imperative.”

Participants at the invitation-only meeting discussed the expertise, strategies and resources available amongst the group to safeguard regional and national energy systems. The discussion was built upon UTSA’s robust knowledge enterprise in cyber, cloud, computing, analytics and data as well as its plans for a National Security Collaboration Center and a new School of Data Science.

“UTSA is well-positioned to serve as a coordinating force that brings together the public and private sectors and leverages partnerships with the three Department of Energy national labs involved in cybersecurity to revolutionize the way the nation protects its critical energy infrastructure,” said Eighmy. “By leveraging CPS Energy’s leadership and the partnerships we have built through our National Security Collaboration Center and School of Data Science, San Antonio could become a test-bed for cyber resiliency strategies, serving as a model in the state of Texas.”

San Antonio is the nation’s second-largest cybersecurity hub outside of Washington, D.C. The city’s cybersecurity ecosystem includes more than 80 companies, various colleges and universities and military components such as the 24th Air Force, 25th Air Force, 67th Cyberspace Wing, 688th Cyberspace Wing, FBI Cyber Division and National Security Agency.

The city is also home to CPS Energy, the nation’s largest, municipally owned energy company, and a wide array of oil and gas companies including corporate offices and small and mid-sized companies focused on downstream, midstream and up-stream operations.

“Cyber-attacks on energy companies are on the rise with potential risks of oil market fraud, plant destruction and equipment sabotage. The focus that many energy companies have placed on these risks highlights not only their acute awareness of the issue, but their gravity as well. We must continue our vigilant oversight when it comes to these efforts,” said U.S. Congressman Will Hurd.There is no better place to advance the security of the American energy industry than San Antonio, the crossroads of an emerging cybersecurity hub with the South Texas shale boom. I thank UTSA for hosting this forum and Secretary Perry for his continued efforts to ensure the security of our state’s energy infrastructure for years to come.”

To explore the opportunities and challenges related to energy cybersecurity, the event included a panel discussion with Steve Ashby, director, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Zachary Tudor, associate laboratory director of National and Homeland Security, Idaho National Laboratory; Heidi Ammerlahn, director of Homeland Security and Defense Systems, Sandia National Laboratories; Paula Gold Williams, CEO of CPS Energy; Nicole Beebe, director of the UTSA Cyber Center for Security and Analytics; and Greg White, director of the UTSA Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security. Hurd moderated the panel.

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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

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The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.