New Cybersecurity Nonprofit SAMSOC Aims to Draw Business to San Antonio

San Antonio—Small and large businesses alike are facing an increasingly risky cyber world, from the WannaCry ransomware attacks to the large-scale data thefts that hit Sony, Target, and many others in recent years. Three San Antonio executives are developing a nonprofit they hope will help bring some of that work to the growing number of cybersecurity workers in San Antonio.

Called SAMSOC, the nonprofit plans to start offering memberships in January to local San Antonio cybersecurity experts, giving them access to a test lab, discounted training programs, and potential connections to both small businesses and large companies looking for cybersecurity contractors, says Red Thomas, one of the co-founders of the nonprofit. The co-founders of SAMSOC—which stands for San Antonio Multidiscipline Security Operations Center—believe the center will earn referrals for cybersecurity experts, and draw more companies to seek out contractors in San Antonio.

“The goal is to put a spotlight on cybersecurity in San Antonio,” says Thomas, who also runs RedKnight, a contractor that specializes in security work with the Department of Defense. “We want to pool the assets we have to solve the problems that, right now, these big companies are going outside of San Antonio for.”

The group hopes the nonprofit will become a hub that companies look to for cybersecurity referrals, in part from the connections the co-founders have through clients, other cybersecurity experts, networking, and eventually through the members of SAMSOC themselves, Thomas says. The group plans to profile each member, listing his or her specific skills so an expert can be matched with any potential customers, he says.

SAMSOC may be attractive to mom-and-pop business owners that might not want to pay monthly fees to secure their data, or for more costly services, but might be able to pay an individual contractor, says SAMSOC co-founder Cindy McClister. McClister is the founder and CEO of DC Industries, which provides cybersecurity training for DoD contractors.

“There’s a ton of small-business people here in the city, and they have no clue about their cyber protection,” McClister says. “That’s where the biggest vulnerability and risk is.”

San Antonio has many established cybersecurity companies, from government contractors like IPSecure and Fidelis Cybersecurity at Port San Antonio to startups like Infocyte and data backup provider Jungle Disk. SAMSOC’s goal, it seems, will be to resolve difficult problems that large, more bureaucratic companies may not be able to do on their own, like preventing hackers from accessing Internet-connected machines.

SAMSOC co-founder Rob Dodson, whose nonprofit Redcell San Antonio provides cybersecurity workers with hands-on experience they may need to get a job or promotion, believes conducting similar classes through SAMSOC will help make local workers more attractive to businesses in need of cyber protection. The center can also be used to help educate students interested in the field, he says.

SAMSOC will charge membership fees, the cost of which the co-founders haven’t determined yet. There won’t be any referral fees charged to members for business connections made through the group, Thomas says. The group will also accept business members.

The co-founders hope that the test lab, in which members can test their networks on high-end computing equipment, may prove to be an incubator of sorts for any entrepreneurs thinking of developing a security startup, Dodson says.

“If I have some of these guys who want to develop a product company, it goes back to using Red’s range to test it out,” Dodson says. “With all three of us, we’re trying to turn out a product here that is fully engageable within the community and trying to keep some of these kids here in town.”

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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