Mississippi State and the Mississippi Small Business Development Center are partnering to provide free cybersecurity training and resources to the state's small business owners. (Photo by Getty Images)
With more small businesses moving parts of their sales and operations online, a new initiative from Mississippi State and the Mississippi Small Business Development Center is providing cybersecurity resources and support to the state's business owners.
The MSU Small Business Development Center Cybersecurity project brings together the resources of the university's Small Business Development Center and MSU's Center for Cyber Innovation to give business owners the information they need to make cost-effective cybersecurity decisions.
"MSU has a long history of supporting Mississippi small businesses and a reputation as a national leader in cybersecurity," said MSU College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald. "I am incredibly proud that we can merge these two areas and create an invaluable resource for our state. The pandemic has underscored the increasing technology and cybersecurity demands many small businesses are facing, often with limited resources to address these issues. By providing this free resource, MSU and the Mississippi Small Business Development Center are helping our small businesses remain competitive in today's business environment."
The Mississippi Small Business Development Center, housed at the University of Mississippi, is funding the project with federal CARES Act resources. The project will help businesses implement ways to secure their intellectual property, protect customer information and sales, and establish secure work environments for teleworking and business operations.
"The Mississippi SBDC is very excited to collaborate with MSU to bring cyber security services to the small businesses and entrepreneurs of our state," said Sharon Nichols, State Director of the MS-SBDC. "At a time when all businesses have been put on a fast track to find an online presence due to Covid-19, having this very high level of support and training is an absolute game changer for Mississippi business owners."
Chip Templeton, director of the MSU Small Business Development Center, will serve as the team lead for the initiative. In his current role, Templeton oversees a team that provides no-cost counseling to business owners in a 10-county footprint. The new cybersecurity resources and training will be available to business owners across the state.
"We want to make sure the smallest business understands the importance of cybersecurity before it is impacted by a data breach," Templeton said. "In addition to the trainings, we can provide individual counseling where we can help with anything that gives the business owner heartburn on how to put it into action."
Recognized nationally for its cybersecurity research, MSU is one of only a few schools in the U.S. to hold all three of the National Security Agency's centers of academic excellence credentials: CAE-Cyber Defense Education, CAE-Cyber Defense Research, and CAE-Cyber Operations. Several academic units at MSU manage programs and teach classes with an emphasis on cybersecurity, including the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering and the College of Business.
MSU's Center for Cyber Innovation researches, prototypes and delivers cutting-edge cyber services to support global national security, homeland security and peacekeeping operations.
Drew Hamilton, director of the Center for Cyber Innovation, said federal agencies, particularly the Department of Defense, are increasingly requiring contractors to meet specific cybersecurity specifications through the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. Additionally, the Department of Commerce's National Institute for Standards and Technology provides guidelines for protecting "controlled unclassified" information, which includes items such as trade secrets and a customer's social security number. Hamilton said meeting these standards, which are outlined in the MSU-led training, helps businesses remain secure and can reduce liability.
"We're looking at ways for small businesses to reduce the costs of meeting these standards," Hamilton said. "The reality is, it's not just a technical problem. You have to look at cost-benefit analysis and risk management. If you're a small business and you make a huge investment in cybersecurity, but you invest in the wrong thing, you're actually less secure because now you have less money to deal with new threats."