Mississippi Cyber Initiative continues momentum with quarterly summit at Keesler AFB

Mississippi Cyber Initiative continues momentum with quarterly summit at Keesler AFB

Jim Martin speaks at an MCI Summit

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.—Since launching in 2021, the Mississippi State University-led Mississippi Cyber Initiative has built a strong network of collaborators that works to identify and address cybersecurity needs.

The accomplishments of the initiative to date include direct support to law enforcement for digital device investigations, the establishment of a cyber training range, and outreach to raise cybersecurity awareness and capabilities among groups like K-12 students and small business owners. That momentum was on full display during MCI’s Quarterly Cyber Summit, held Oct. 12 at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.

“The success of this initiative is based on collaboration,” said Jim Martin, MSU associate vice president for corporate engagement and economic development and MCI lead. “I am very proud of the way this collaboration has resulted in all of us working together to leverage our unique strengths to solve critical problems.”

The summit brought together representatives from approximately 50 institutions representing academia, state government, federal government, defense and private industry. Participants were able to tour Keesler and learn more about its training mission, which includes preparing personnel for 34 different career fields and graduating approximately 6,000 cyber professionals every year.

Col. Billy Pope, commander of the Air Force’s 81st Training Wing, provided a keynote for a summit highlighting the importance of collaboration in navigating a world that is run on complex technological systems. He said technology issues can derail everything from the ability to sell a hamburger to the ability to protect critical infrastructure and use weapons systems.

Billy Pope speaks at an MCI summit

“Cyber operations, ladies and gentlemen, is a team sport,” Pope said. “More and more, we’re even finding this to be true between nations, especially as our adversaries with malicious intent work hard to cover their tracks by routing their commands and their traffic through unsuspecting vulnerable infrastructure and nations around the world. We either partner to succeed, or we fail in silos.”

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann also spoke at the summit, noting the need for cyber protection as hospitals, school districts, local governments and casinos have all come under attack in recent months within the state.

“We have 200 state agencies, everything from Medicaid to the Secretary of State’s Office, the voter rolls and across the whole gamut,” Hosemann said. “We have all of these potential vulnerabilities. So I have an interest in this.”

Participants also visited the planned future site of the Mississippi Cyber and Technology Center, a 100,000-square-foot building on Keesler Air Force Base. The facility will serve as the headquarters for Mississippi Cyber Initiative activity, with space for cyber training, events and private industry. This summer, MSU Research and Technology Corp. was selected to develop the property through a competitive bid process led by the Air Force Civil Engineering Center. The two entities are currently in lease negotiations for the land as design plans continue, with Dale Partners selected as the architect for the project.

Last year, the Mississippi Cyber Initiative officially opened its initial facilities at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Harrison County Campus. Since opening a Digital Forensics Lab last May, 35 law enforcement agencies have used the lab’s capabilities as part of investigations involving digital devices, with more than 900 devices processed. MCI also regularly hosts digital forensics training events for law enforcement officers.

For more on the Mississippi Cyber Initiative, visit www.mscyberinitiative.org or follow MCI on Twitter (MS_Cyber_Init) and LinkedIN (Mississippi Cyber Initiative).



Jim Martin

Mississippi State

  • Associate Vice President for Corporate Engagement and Economic Development

Martin Rivera

Mississippi State

  • MCI Technical Director

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