by John Michael O'Leary
There’s a never-ending barrage in cyberspace of bots and malicious actors looking to exploit users and gain access to networks for dark purposes. Call it the “new abnormal” for any internet-connected institution. At USI, around-the-clock defenses include the efforts of students in the Security Operations Center (SOC). Students like Austin Steele . . .
“The Security Operations Center serves a couple of purposes,” says Dr. Kenneth Shemroske, associate professor of computer information systems. “It supports the University’s IT team in protecting our infrastructure from attacks and cyber threats. It also provides students an opportunity to gain real work experience in cybersecurity.”
The SOC has been in operation for two years. During that time it has employed about 20 students as paid cybersecurity analysts, investigating suspicious activity and mitigating threats across the network. Austin Steele ’20, computer science, works between 18 and 20 hours each week. This fall he will be among the first group of students to earn the Romain College of Business certificate in cybersecurity; after graduation, he intends to pursue a career in cyber forensics.
“My experience in the SOC helped me get an internship with the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office, working on a criminal case involving cyber forensics,” says Steele. “I had applied with several companies—a lot of them seemed super interested in my work in the SOC.”
That experience helped Steele understand the forensics in his internship, and his internship experience in turn gave him a head start in his digital forensics class. He adds that he was “very surprised” at how much state-of-the-art equipment Vanderburgh County has for cyber forensics—an indication of how important this evolving field is.
“This is definitely a growing market, with jobs popping up everywhere,” says Steele. “I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”
“Depending on which source you consider, anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of jobs in cybersecurity will go unfilled over the next several years for lack of skilled people,” says Shemroske. “Graduates with this kind of experience are in great demand.”
Southwest Indiana Cybercom—a community event for education on advances in cybersecurity. USI Griffith Center.