Four leading figures in San Antonio's cybersecurity industry were individually inducted into the San Antonio Cyber Hall of Honor Tuesday afternoon at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Twenty-three industry leaders, alongside the CyberTexas Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that promotes the cybersecurity industry, recognized Larry Merritt, Lee Sutterfield, Gregory White, and Glen Dietrich for being instrumental in developing key programs to protect the public and private sector from cyber threats. Future inductees into the Cyber Hall of Honor will be recognized every year with a ceremony similar to Tuesday's.
CyberTexas Foundation Executive Director Joe Sanchez, who is also chief of network operations at the 25th U.S. Air Force operations center at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, spearheaded the recognition ceremony to honor those who have helped establish the United States Air Force's cybersecurity branch.
Addressing cybersecurity threats has become a pivotal conversation topic for local and national businesses, with leaders in the industry calling for owners to strengthen their cybersecurity programs and include planning efforts in their risk management practices. In this day and age, individuals, companies, and government agencies are are potential targets in a cyber battleground without borders.
Below, you can read about the four cybersecurity pioneers who were honored and how each has helped develop and expand the nation's current cybersecurity framework:
Merritt was the first director of communications and computer systems security inside the U.S. Air Force Cryptologic Support Center (AFCSC), as well as the first technical director for the U.S. Air Force Information Warfare Center (AFIWC) and the Defensive Information Operations Group (NSA/DIO). In addition, Merritt has held several senior positions within multiple federal support companies and created the U.S. Air Force’s Computer Emergency Response Center.
Sutterfield's career has focused on security and communications network management for more than 25 years. He is president of San Antonio-based cybersecurity company SecureLogix and cofounder of WheelGroup, a former pioneering computer security company, which was acquired for $124 million by Cisco Systems in 1998.
Sutterfield is also known for his work with the U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence and the U.S. Air Force, delving into issues related to protection and network vulnerability. During his career, Sutterfield help found the Air Force Computer Security Assessment Program (CSAP) and wrote key intelligence reports related to cybersecurity issues facing the Air Force and U.S. government.
White, whose career has revolved around computer and network security, served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force reserves for 30 years during which he helped build the U. S.' first undergraduate information warfare laboratory. Additionally, he helped establish the Air Force Computer Security Office in San Antonio. White is a UTSA computer science professor and director of the UTSA Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS). He serves as executive director for the UTSA-led Information Sharing and Analysis Organization Standards Organization (ISAO SO), which focuses on creating standards and guidelines to improve the nation's cybersecurity posture.
Dietrich is a professor of information systems and cyber security at UTSA and the founder and former director of CIAS. Along with being the lead researcher for the university's Cyber P3 initiative – which trains army personnel to fill critical cybersecurity roles in the federal government – Dietrich is known for his input in developing minors in digital forensics, technology management, and network and data management. He was also instrumental in developing UTSA's information assurance program for its College of Business.
At the ceremony, inductees reminisced about the start of their careers in cybersecurity, going back more than 25 years to a time when it was a challenge to explain the term "cyber" to anyone, let alone inform them about computer security.
"In the early days, we were still trying to conceptualize what an operational model for cybersecurity was," Sutterfield said.
White remembers a time when Air Force regulation was more concerned with sprinkling systems than computers, but with the introduction of the PC, "the high value item was no longer the equipment itself, but the information (and data on the computer)." White named the three other inductees by name, saying they were all "brought together quite by accident," and he acknowledged the privilege of working under all of the honorees during his own career.
"There is really no degree of separation in this group," White said. "No one planned to have this become our career when we entered the work force, but the decision was made for me when I entered the Air Force."
The most repeated sentiment throughout the evening among all of the honorees was San Antonio's reputation as the center for cybersecurity expertise, all due in part to the placement of so many Air Force bases in the city. That strong Air Force presence later became the "seed," Dietrich said, that helped incorporate cybersecurity programs into college curricula.
"UTSA is ranked around the country as the number one university for cybersecurity programs," Dietrich said. "Back then, we were trying to come up with a cyber program that included academia, industry, and government."
Today, the university offers an array of cyber programs, and some students even complete dissertations on cybersecurity.
A lot of the basic programs related to intel and database feedback that the aforementioned pioneers helped build, are "basic programs put in place 25 years ago, that are still being used today" Merritt said.
Clearly, the city and nation has come a long way with cybersecurity. Sutterfield reflected on this as he reacted to the names of everyone who made this possible.
"This is a good piece of work," he said, holding back tears. "Thank you."
Top image: Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Secure Logix Corporation Lee Sutterfield personally thanks his wife after receiving the Hall of Honor award. Photo by Scott Ball.