Contact: James Carskadon
HATTIESBURG, Miss.—As part of an ongoing initiative to address state and federal cyber workforce and security challenges, public and private stakeholders gathered Tuesday [Feb. 8] at Camp Shelby for the Mississippi Cyber Initiative’s Quarterly Cyber Summit.
During Tuesday’s summit, MCI partners highlighted and planned future collaborations that will impact K-12, community college and university students, as well as U.S. Department of Defense cyber training exercises. Led by Mississippi State University, the Mississippi Cyber Initiative is a statewide effort to broaden the state’s capabilities and coordination in a field that will play a key role in Mississippi’s economy for decades to come.
“Our goal is to put a blanket of cybersecurity across Mississippi, and we can only do that through collaboration,” said Jim Martin, MSU associate vice president for corporate engagement and economic development. “We are identifying different needs across the state and finding the right partners to make this initiative successful. We have outstanding cyber capabilities and education programs in Mississippi, and we can position our state as a national leader in cybersecurity.”
Tuesday’s meeting brought together attendees from 18 different organizations representing U.S. armed forces, state government, law enforcement, industry, and academic partners. Held at the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, the summit included Mississippi National Guard leadership briefings on the force’s cyber training and capabilities.
Maj. Gen. Janson D. “Durr” Boyles, adjutant general of Mississippi, noted that the National Guard has eight Mississippians currently deployed in Washington, D.C. supporting federal cyber operations. Additionally, the Mississippi National Guard’s Cyber Protection Team, established in 2015, supports cyber incident response efforts in Mississippi.
“These soldiers become Mississippi resources,” Boyles said. “They come back to their communities and their employers with a strong skillset.”
The Mississippi Cyber Initiative began in 2021 to support cyber training taking place at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. In addition to MSU and Keesler, implementing partners include Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi. The initiative has continued to grow as it focuses its efforts on providing statewide leadership and collaboration in cybersecurity, developing the workforce, and growing the economy by attracting advanced technology industries.
MCI is establishing initial capabilities at MGCCC’s Harrison County Campus. The Digital Forensics Lab will bolster the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s investigation capabilities for mobile devices collected at crime scenes. The System Operations Lab will provide a virtual cyber platform to train network server administrators in partnership with Keesler. The Cyber Ecosystem will provide a controlled environment for cybersecurity training, giving students experience in detecting and mitigating attacks. After an extensive process to identify the capital improvements and new technologies that will best support the mission, the MCI facilities at MGCCC will be fully operational in the coming months.
The long-term plan is to have MCI headquartered in a new facility to be built adjacent to Keesler. The Mississippi Cyber and Technology Center will serve as the hub for a robust network of statewide partners, offering a coordination site for cyber training and threat mitigation efforts, as well as space for collaboration with private sector companies.
MCI partners are planning multiple events in the coming weeks, including a retreat for Mississippi cybersecurity faculty hosted by the USM School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering Feb. 24-25 at the university’s Gulf Park Campus. MSU’s Center for Cyber Education is hosting an event in May at MGCCC to introduce 120 high school students to the field of cybersecurity. USM is partnering with Keesler and Camp Shelby to host 80 JROTC cadets at cybersecurity camps in July, utilizing funding from the National Security Agency’s GenCyber Program. During Tuesday’s meeting, partners began planning a tabletop exercise to help state agencies build and validate cyber incident response plans, better protecting the state’s critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks.