Last month Cartersville, GA-based BorderHawk CyberSecurity announced the general availability of its Klieglight Cyber Media platform, which utilizes a proprietary methodology to analyze public information across social media and identify cyber threat activity and act as an early warning system for cyber attacks.

Klieglight, which was in limited availability since February, has already been used to recognize potential threats to an industrial operation. The platform is named after the military term that was a reporting vehicle used to forward time-sensitive SIGINT technical information to NSCO, SIGINT producers and Cyrpotologica Support Groups.

“One of the most important facets of cyber incident management is the ability to gather intelligence in preparation for potential malicious activities,” said Steve Akridge, chief executive officer of BorderHawk.

“In the past, this has been a difficult task, but with the emergence of social media and new internet analytical tools, more organizations have the resources to conduct effective information gathering,” added Akridge, who served as the first chief security officer for the state of Georgia and who also spent 20 years in the Navy’s Naval Security Command Group. “We designed Klieglight to precisely identify activity that may have high relevance of a potential cyber issue for a client.”

Border Security

Founded in 2008 as a Georgia Limited Liability Company, with a license to operate in Alaska, BorderHawk’s main focus is now on cybersecurity-information risk consulting and related services. It offers risk support for strategic planning, policy analysis or development, controls design, solutions implementation, regulatory compliance, or even as technical project managers.

“We’ve been involved with both state and local governments,” Akridge told ClearanceJobs. “We can’t always reveal in what capacity as we have worked with law enforcement.”

That inability to share what the company has done is something that Akridge added is akin to why many local governments are struggling to secure their critical infrastructure today.

“With the way our government is structured you have to go to Congress on the national level or a city council perhaps on the local level, and in either case you have to show the problem to get the interest to build these programs to protect against attacks,” he explained. “When we don’t publicize there is a problem it makes it hard to get the funds.”

This however, can be a double-edged sword – communities that come under cyber attacks, including ransomware, typically have no choice but to publicize that there has been a problem.

“The truth is that you always have to prepare,” said Akridge, who added that cyber threats have long been an issue, even at the local level. After leaving the Navy, Akridge worked for the State of Georgia and even in the late 1990s saw the threat of malware.

“It wasn’t ransomware but the malware problem was such that you could lose a complete agency,” he noted. “We started building programs back then to protect the infrastructure. However, today less publicity from these attacks is actually better for local governments.”

By staying silent following an attack, it helps ensure that the bad actors don’t see success. However, Akridge admitted that when an attack occurs there are usually only two options. “At the end of the day you either prepare for the attack prior to it happening,” he told ClearanceJobs. “Or you pay the ransom. But not paying the ransom can mean there is no way to recover the data, unless you go back to paper documents, which some cities have had to do. The bad guys realize that cities are willing to pay because they’re covered by insurance.”

BorderHawk and Clearance

Given its role with state and local governments, the clearance process for BorderHawk CyberSecurity is a bit different than for other contractors.

“Many of us have had security clearance in our previous lives,” said Akridge. “Right now if we are engaged with critical infrastructure including state or local government we have our FBI clearance certificate, rather than say the DoD (Department of Defense) clearance.”

However, given the work that BorderHawk does with state and local government, this can be an issue for those who have worked with federal clearance.

“As a general rule, we find that the person coming out of the military today will have a clearance that won’t play in most city and state governments,” Akridge added. “It is a matter of federal and state governments requiring a different type of background checks, and there has been no ‘cross pollination’ between the clearances. That has been a problem.”

Akridge explained that the background of an individual can be more attractive as a potential hire than the clearance that individual may hold. “Clearance isn’t an issue. The fact that someone was working in open source intelligence, or was a signals intelligence analyst is the sort of person we’d consider for employment, or refer them, all day long.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com.