Gazebo Gazette

A ribbon cutting held on Wednesday [Nov. 9] marks a new era of collaboration in cybersecurity across the Magnolia State.

Officials from Mississippi State University, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, along with multiple state and federal partners, celebrated the opening of the Mississippi Cyber Center.

Located in a renovated building on the MGCCC Harrison County Campus, the Mississippi Cyber Center houses initial capabilities established as part of the MSU-led Mississippi Cyber Initiative. The building contains three different labs that support law enforcement, training at Keesler Air Force Base and MGCCC, as well as a digital ecosystem for outreach, collaboration, and training.

“Cybersecurity is a critical piece of our shared future, regardless of who you are or what kind of business you are in,” said MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw. “Through the Mississippi Cyber Initiative, we are creating a statewide network that is using unparalleled collaboration to address these issues head on. I am incredibly excited about the impact of this facility and the unlimited potential of what we can accomplish working together.”

“This new endeavor is an outstanding opportunity for us to put Mississippi at the forefront of cybersecurity in the nation and world,” said MGCCC President Mary S. Graham. “Preparing students and our military to meet the challenges in the ever-changing cyber domain is going to bring security and stability that is much needed in today’s world.”

The Mississippi Cyber Initiative, established in 2021, is a statewide effort to broaden the state’s capabilities and coordination in cybersecurity, a field that will play a key role in Mississippi’s economy for decades to come. The initiative grew out of MSU’s support for cyber activities at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, a major training hub for the U.S. Air Force. MCI is leveraging collective expertise among academia, the private sector, federal and local government, law enforcement, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Mississippi National Guard.

“The complexity of scenarios we face in defending our nation require cooperative and innovative partnerships with our local, state and federal partners to protect the U.S. National security interests,” said Col. Laura King, 81st Training Group commander. “Today’s partnership with the Mississippi Cyber Center, a part of the overall Mississippi Cyber Initiative, will be one of Keesler’s greatest assets as we continue to partner, collaborate and innovate with our teammates across the state and nation.”

Utilizing an initial state investment of $3.5 million, the Mississippi Cyber Initiative has worked to build collaborations, assess stakeholder needs and develop the Mississippi Cyber Center, which currently serves as the initiative’s headquarters.

The building contains a Digital Forensics Lab that is assisting 15 law enforcement agencies as they carry out investigations with a digital device component. The lab was established after identifying unmet demand from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation for forensics investigation support and equipment. The building’s Systems Operations Lab houses a new training platform that supports Keesler’s network administrator training and MGCCC workforce development programs.

MCI is also in the final stages of developing a cyber ecosystem that can be utilized by partners for a wide range of cyber exercises, events, and training activities. MSU has hired three personnel that are housed at the Mississippi Cyber Center to help coordinate MCI activities.

The long-term plan includes expanding capabilities at the MGCCC facility and building a larger facility on the Gulf Coast, known as the Mississippi Cyber and Technology Center, to serve as MCI headquarters, with complimentary capabilities spread across the state.

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.

“The Mississippi Cyber Initiative continues to build strong momentum,” said Jim Martin, MCI lead and MSU associate vice president for economic development and corporate engagement. “We have taken a very deliberate approach of listening to stakeholders to determine specific needs and now we are standing up capabilities to address those needs in a way that benefits the entire state. We could not do this ourselves, so I greatly appreciate everyone that has been a part of this initiative.”

MCI programming has included quarterly cyber summits, K-12 outreach activities, and a gathering of cybersecurity faculty from across the state. In July, MSU and MGCCC partnered to host the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Executive Leadership Forum, bringing hundreds of representatives from the country’s top cybersecurity academic programs to the Gulf Coast.