CIT Gap Funds / Cybersecurity / Digital access / Roundups

So, what exactly is cybersecurity?

We've been talking about cybersecurity this month as a growing industry in the D.C. area. Here's what experts had to say about what the term means, and how it fits into #dctech.

Are you practicing cybersecurity on the daily? (Photo by Pixabay user JESHOOTS-com, used under a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of's Growing Industries month, when DC is focusing extra reporting on the topic of cybersecurity.

Some people may correlate the word cybersecurity with a bunch of jargon-y language and products, but did you ever think that maybe simply putting a lock code on your cellphone can count as cybersecurity as well?

In light of April’s editorial focus on growing industries, DC is focusing on cybersecurity, but what is it?

IT leader Cisco defines cybersecurity as the practice of protecting systems, networks and programs from digital attacks. From social media passwords to Google’s password authenticator to Apple‘s iPhone two-factor authentication and beyond, there’s many ways we are being more cyber secure on the daily.

So, how does cybersecurity fit into the #dctech community specifically? There’s no secret that cybersecurity talent is in high demand since it’s the number one sought-after skill in immediate demand at local tech companies.

Here’s what local cyber experts had to say about cybersecurity and what makes it a growing industry in the nation’s capital.


Diego Salinas, assistant director of cybersecurity accelerator MACH37, defines cybersecurity as the practice of protecting and securing anything cyber related, like computers, mobile devices, network and data, from malicious attacks or unauthorized access. He added that cybersecurity is constantly being redefined as the industry – and threats – evolve.

“As soon as you define what cybersecurity is, somebody is looking for an attack vector that you didn’t think of and when you find out they used that vector to compromise your system, you are constantly redefining what cybersecurity is to include new attacks and new technologies,” Salinas told

Salinas’ daily mission is to conduct intensive tech scouting for over-the-horizon cyber and cyber adjacent technologies, cutting-edge startups and dynamic teams who demonstrate cyber acumen and leadership to join the MACH37 accelerator. He stressed the fact that cybersecurity is even more important here because D.C. is the nation’s capital.

“Cyber is ubiquitous – cybersecurity vulnerabilities now impact nearly every facet of our daily lives. Understanding and building cybersecurity into our lives is no longer relegated to a few tech-savvy experts in the background, the onus is on all of us,” Salinas said.

The MACH37 accelerator has graduated more than 50 companies from its program, including local cyber startups Virgil Security, Shevirah, Normshield, Atomicorp, INOVA Intelligence and Plutus Privacy. The accelerator recently announced its Spring 2019 cohort, which includes six cyber startups.

“D.C. is the nexus of some of the most influential forces in cyber globally. It’s a place where extremely diverse ecosystems converge around critical global needs. The DC tech corridor, the U.S. federal government, Fortune 500s, leading academics and a strong set of entrepreneurs are working together to coordinate and fill key gaps,” Salinas said. “It’s a dynamic time in cyber in DC and, frankly, will only become moreso in the near future.”

Here are some day-to-day cybersecurity tips tips from Salinas to consider:

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your internet activity. They are easy to use, inexpensive and protect your communications, financial transactions, and personal data while in transit.
  • Frequently change your passwords and use password managers.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible and think before you click on a suspicious link.


Jennifer O’Daniel, investment director at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), defines cybersecurity as the protection of internet connected devices.

“It’s what stops me from being able to know and use your credit cards, banks accounts, medical history, etc. It also protects the power grid, water supply, and the election system,” O’Daniel said.

Previously, O’Daniel has led investments in cybersecurity company for CIT Gap Funds and MACH37 that includes a portfolio of over 80 security companies. MACH37 was born from CIT five years ago. On Fridays, O’Daniel co-hosts CyberScoop‘s Securiosity podcast that rounds up the week in infosec news and then features an interview with a leading cybersecurity company or expert.

O’Daniel agrees that cybersecurity is a growing industry in D.C. because of its proximity to about 16 intelligence agencies within a 30-mile radius, giving this community a prime opportunity to be the hub of cybersecurity.

Here are some day-to-day cybersecurity tips from O’Daniel to consider:

  • Don’t repeat passwords across accounts and change them monthly.
  • Change the username and password for your home’s internet router and replace the product every three years.


In collaboration with Baltimore, we’re also working on a post that provides a quick glossary for cybersecurity. We’re looking to provide a high-level overview of important terms to know: What are the terms a person needs to know? And what’s especially important in 2019? Let us know.

Companies: Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation / MACH37 / Cisco
Series: Growing Industries Month 2019

Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


Major state funding boost means more Maryland college students can get tech internships

Cal Ripken Jr. essay: The MLB legend explains his drive to build STEM centers in schools across the nation

The end of software as technology

From quantum to biotech, meet this year’s Maryland Tech Council ICON nominees

Technically Media