Masters, Soul and Head of U.S. Cyber-Security

By Geoff Smith

When we think of Augusta, GA, I know the first thing that comes to mind: the home of James Brown, Godfather of Soul. Right?

I guess there is that golf tournament that I got away with spending an entire day on the couch watching a couple weeks ago – the Masters. But there is another thing in August I’m becoming focused on that most of you have not heard of: Augusta is the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command. For the Army, this is ground zero for all cyber-attacks made against, and by, the United States.

The headquarters was built in 2016 and was followed up by a $60 million-campus that is the state’s “centerpiece for cyber security research and development,” according to an article in the AJC. The campus, known as The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, will help train the workforce for the Army’s headquarters, and will also incubate startups in the same field.

I am fortunate enough to sit in on the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Coalition. We study workforce trends in the technology and healthcare industries in North Fulton, and then work with our universities and schools to make sure they are aware of the demands from our local businesses. The idea is to produce students who have the skills that the companies in our area require. There are several very smart CTO’s that have been involved on our committee and I’ve learned a lot. One of the things I learned is that the tech guys in the security divisions are typically the smartest of the bunch. Most tech guys only have to learn the kind of coding that their company considers standard. But those in the security side of things have to know every kind of coding, because hackers use whatever coding the criminal is an expert in.

In March we hosted a Cyber Technology Summit where our guest speaker was Ronald W. Pontius, Deputy to the Commanding General of U.S. Army Cyber Command. He said that his office fights off ‘hundreds of millions’ of cyber-attacks every month. He happened to be speaking the same day that the City of Atlanta announced an attack that ultimately shut the city down for 6 days. (We have a knack at the chamber for having guests at just the right time. We had the state transportation director speak the morning of Snowmageddon in 2014).

Pontius said that cyber-attacks are a bigger threat to our national security than terrorism.

Knowing all of that, it’s really pretty great for our state to have both that headquarters and that college campus in Augusta. It will bring some of the best talent in technology to Georgia.

When I was growing up, life was pretty simple. We didn’t like Russia and they didn’t like us. And everyone else kind of watched us maneuver each other and it all seemed pretty visible. Today there is so incredibly much information out there that it is hard keep up with what’s true, and to understand who our enemies actually are. Whereas most of the jockeying for power back then seemed to be done out in the open, today we are fighting three million little battles a day behind closed doors on computers. All while I’m Googling the stats of Georgia’s intra-squad spring day football game.

It’s a fast-paced and unknown world we are in. But give credit to our officials running this state. Georgia has once again positioned itself at the epicenter of one of the most critical industries on the planet.

Mortgage Rates Take One on the Chin

Mortgage rates shot up to 4-year highs this week before catching a little bit of a break yesterday. News that the 10-Year Treasury yield hit 3% rattled markets who were mostly expecting it to do so.

Mortgage interest rates are tied in part to the 10-Year Treasury, some say because that’s the average time a homeowner stays in a house before selling it. When bonds are bought in low volume, the laws of supply and demand say that their price will drop, which they have. Since they are originally bought at a fixed price with a fixed rate of return, when their prices drop in the aftermarket, the yield rises.

The stock market immediately tanked when the yield hit 3%. This was kind of strange because most experts expected the yield to do that and stocks are typically bought and sold on speculation. But it seems this was likely driven by automated trading where investors programmed computers to make specific trades once the yield hit 3%.

Usually the mortgage interest rate moves down when the stock market goes down and visa-versa. This was unique in that regard.

Hitting the 3% mark was a big deal because it’s a sign investors are comfortable enough with the economy to look away from the safety of bonds.

What this Means to You:

According to Mortgage News Daily’s Rate Survey, best execution rates for a conventional 30-year fixed are at 4.64%.