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Higher Education and State Government Collaborate on Security Operations Centers

Working in SOC – even at entry-level tasks – provides invaluable hands-on experience for students, preparing them for a career in cybersecurity, where the demand for skilled workers remains extremely high. The state is rewarded with access to a reliable pool of young employees to complement its SOC staff and can tap into Purdue’s resident intelligence.

It’s the kind of partnership that goes a long way to strengthening cybersecurity, while providing important experience for the next generation of security professionals. Industry experts agree that this is a powerful tactic.

How Governments and Higher Education Can Close the IT Skills Gap

The Center for Digital Government recently determined that state and local governments need to overcome obstacles to successfully execute their cybersecurity strategies. In a CDG survey of national and local authorities, 46% cited the lack of a skilled workforce in cybersecurity as their main challenge. Forty percent identified challenges with integrating security tools and 36% said they were unable to respond quickly to threats.

The National Governors Association is well aware of the lack of IT skills among state governments. In 2021, the NGA created its latest cybersecurity policy academy, calling on Montana to host cybersecurity workforce development sessions, which concluded in January.

“The opportunity to collaborate with other states to implement best practices and improvements to advance our cybersecurity workforce will pay off by creating a pipeline of jobs while ensuring Montanese that their data are protected,” Montana Chief Administrative Officer Misty Ann Giles said in a press release.

Meanwhile, students find opportunities through on-campus cybersecurity training programs and are referred to mentorship programs to gain first-hand experience and prepare to enter the workforce. in cybersecurity. These opportunities are helping to create a robust new generation of cybersecurity workers.

READ MORE: Universities accelerate threat detection with security operations centers.

The role of collaboration in government cybersecurity

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers recommends greater collaboration between states and public institutions of higher education to improve government cybersecurity.

In 2020, NASCIO reported that only 24% of state colleges and universities worked closely with state governments on cybersecurity; 63% reported limited collaboration. Similarly, 27% of community colleges reported no collaboration.

In the 2020 report, NASCIO updated a call for states to team up with higher education. “CISOs should consider leveraging public-private partnerships and collaborations with local colleges and universities to provide a pipeline of new talent,” NASCIO says in the report. State CISOs should look to colleges and universities to build this pipeline through internships, co-ops, and apprenticeship programs. They should also work together to improve digital services in all states.

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How hands-on experience can bolster cybersecurity

In April, the Texas Department of Information Resources announced that it would establish a regional SOC in partnership with Angelo State University. The SOC will provide real-time network security monitoring as part of an initiative to detect and respond to network incursions. The Regional SOC, or RSOC, will be available to assist local counties, municipalities, utilities, and other public sector entities with cybersecurity operations.

As Government Technology reports, “Although not specifically mentioned in the enactment statute, Senate Bill 475, a crucial element of RSOC is engaging students to participate in the provision of RSOC services, by giving valuable hands-on experience while offsetting personnel costs.”

“The RSOC will also provide network security infrastructure that local governments can use and give college students hands-on experience to build the cybersecurity workforce of tomorrow,” Angelo State said in a press release.

If successful, Texas will duplicate the RSOC structure in 11 additional districts. It is a model that every state government should consider.

A version of this story first appeared as part of StateTech magazines Citizen Blog Series.

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