Cybercrime cost an estimated $6 trillion in 2021. Montreat College leads security efforts.

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

Cyberattacks have become an ever increasing danger to governments, businesses and individuals. And they are expensive. Cybercrime cost an estimated $6 trillion worldwide in 2021. 

That's according to Montreat College President Paul Maurer.

"We consider cybersecurity to be the economic and security threat of our age," said Maurer, in his eighth year as president of the college. 

Maurer presented a discussion of the Carolina Cyber Center, the college's new cybersecurity training facility, to the Council of Independent Business Owners on Feb. 4. 

Black Mountain Mayor Larry Harris said in January that the new cybersecurity facility "could be a tremendous thing" for the town. Harris has served on Maurer's presidential advisory committee for the college and has been supportive of the cybersecurity project. 

"There's a lot of dynamics there," Harris said. "A healthy Montreat College is good for the town of Black Mountain." 

With the help of federal and state input, Montreat College created the Carolina Cyber Center, a 501(c)(3) subsidiary of the college to focus on cybersecurity workforce development. 

Known as the Academy, a section of the center focusing on training and experience, the subsidiary aims to prepare students for real world situations.

"Last year we had about 100 students come through the Academy," Maurer said. "We intend to expand the Academy's reach."

Paul Maurer

Montreat College began cybersecurity training for students in 2015 with eight students in the major. Maurer said after seeing cyber attacks occurring with increased regularity, he encouraged the college to increase its training assets. 

Beginning in January of 2016, Maurer said the college would regularly meet with legislators on Capitol Hill. He said it became immediately clear how serious of an issue cybersecurity presents. 

Now, Maurer said enrollment in the program has gone up and Montreat College has a working relationship with the National Security Agency as well as Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. 

"The state of North Carolina gave us a grant of $2 million a few years ago to launch the Carolina Cyber Center," Maurer said. 

Maurer outlined three problems relating to cybersecurity. 

He reported cybercrime cost an estimated $6 trillion in 2021. For comparison, if cybercrime was a world economy, Maurer said it would be the third largest economy globally. 

The second issue, according to Maurer, comes from a lack of cybersecurity personnel. Additionally, he said the college heard from federal legislators that personnel need to be well trained, experienced and in the field faster. 

Finally, Maurer said there exists a discrepancy between cybersecurity professionals and decision-makers and businesses who aren't speaking the same language. He said people in leadership positions lack the knowledge of how to handle a cyber attack without the help of security professionals. 

As a faith-based institution, Maurer said Montreat College adds an advantageous position to its training, creating security personnel with moral character. 

"The currency of cybersecurity is trust," Maurer said. 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at emaille@blackmountainnews.com.