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America's New Arms Race is Cybersecurity. MSU's CCI Helps Mississippi Educators Train Soldiers

February 28, 2022

This is a new war in which we all have to be soldiers. Money lost. Infrastructures frozen. Countries crippled.
The question falls into the laptops of those on the front lines of cybersecurity in our state: How can we stay safe?

"We are in the new arms race. ... And that's cybersecurity," said Henry Jones, Director of Technology and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Mississippi. "And, so, we have to do our part to contribute and to participate and to learn how to be warriors – all of us – in this new era of warfare."

And that means getting more efficient in the classroom and helping those on the front lines protect industries and businesses from constant attack. It's all part of the discussion at the first Mississippi Cybersecurity Faculty Retreat, coordinated by the USM School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering.

"We have some people here who have come up with some great ideas about how to get involved with industry, who are on the front lines and with the military who's facing this problem on a daily basis."

But more professionals are needed.

"What we are needing are more people who are willing to fight on those front lines," Jones said. "We have hundreds of thousands of jobs available for people who want to do cybersecurity that are extremely well paying."

Among the 50 faculty members throughout the state who gathered at the USM Gulf Coast campus in Long Beach was DeMarcus Thomas, assistant director of the Center of Cyber Innovation at Mississippi State University. He spends a lot of time working with businesses in the state-building up their online protection.

"One of the major things that I run into as I talk with a lot of these businesses is the focus is on getting the job done. And not necessarily thinking about the cybersecurity implications of not thinking through threats and potential problems to your own organization," Thomas said.

Basic cyber hygiene – such as keeping up-to-date antivirus protection and not clicking on suspect links – is very important.

"These are all simple things that you can follow just to not be that low-hanging fruit from a cybersecurity perspective," Thomas said.

The USM was hosted in support of the Mississippi Cyber Initiative, which began in 2021 to support cyber training taking place at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. Keesler's education partners include Mississippi State University, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Coming up in May, MSU's Center for Cyber Education is planning to host an event at MGCCC to introduce 120 high school students to the field of cybersecurity. And USM is partnering with Keesler and Camp Shelby to host 80 JROTC cadets at cybersecurity camps in July.

By Mike Lacy, WLOX News