Cybersecurity attacks, perpetrated by multiple bad actors, have brought multi-billion dollar businesses to a grinding halt, sent hospitals scrambling to protect patients and sent governments scrambling, working overtime to stop the attacks and secure their technological infrastructures.
Recent cyber-attacks with names such as WannaCry and NotPetya have made it clear that cyber criminals continue to increase their intensity and creativity, and require an elevated response.
Given the continued and expanding threat, the global cybersecurity industry has witnessed exponential growth, particularly within the United Kingdom. The U.K. has become a leader in cybersecurity innovation and many local firms are now looking to expand abroad with an eye on Washington.
For U.K. firms looking to establish their brand in overseas markets, Fairfax County, Virginia, should be the first choice in the United States. Expanding to Fairfax County brings with it the advantage of no language barrier and a manageable time zone difference. Most notably, Fairfax County serves as the epicenter for the U.S. government’s cybersecurity efforts.
The county is home to three of the top U.S. government agencies tasked with cybersecurity issues: the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, which encompasses the Fairfax County towns of Herndon, Burke and much of Reston, is home to major corporations including Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, and exported $299 million in services to the U.K. in 2015 alone.
Thousands of cybersecurity experts from across the federal government and military branches live and work in the region. Fairfax County is home to a robust talent pool that includes a large concentration of highly-educated, highly-skilled individuals, with close to 60 percent of Fairfax County adults holding at least a Bachelor’s degree and roughly 25,600 county residents holding Ph.Ds.
Fairfax County is located less than 10 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., creating an environment in which many highly skilled government employees transition to the private sector, often choosing a technology firm or one of eight Fortune 500 companies located in the county. In doing so, they can advance their career without uprooting family. In turn, cybersecurity firms benefit from access to highly-educated, experienced individuals who provide unique insight and experience.
In recent years, many U.K. firms have taken advantage of these benefits and located in Fairfax County. FDM, a U.K.-based IT services provider, recently moved to Fairfax County, joining telecommunications /spectrum management firm, CRFS, which expanded its location in 2016. ETL Systems has also grown its presence since expanding to Fairfax County in 2013.
Evidence of Fairfax County’s prominence in the cyber industry and its robust talent pool was on display at the sold-out Cybertech Fairfax conference, hosted in June by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was the keynote speaker, addressing more than 400 cybersecurity professionals from around the world who came to discuss ways to combat cyber threats and challenges.
U.S. government support for the cyber industry has seen a dramatic surge as threats have increased. The U.S. Congress and president have signaled a desire to raise funding for cyber-related activities and President Trump included a large increase in his proposed. Recent cybersecurity-related Congressional hearings, investigations and bills introduced by individual lawmakers indicate that cybersecurity will remain at the forefront of legislators’ minds for the foreseeable future.
As in warfare, the most effective place to be is as close to the frontline as possible and in the U.S., Fairfax County is the location that most uniquely benefits cybersecurity companies. Through its access to talent, government, and a large professional community, Fairfax County is on the front lines of innovation and engagement. The epicenter of the war on cybercrime has become Washington, D.C., and the closest U.K. companies can get to the engagement is Fairfax County.