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Boise State Offering Security as a Service to Rural Agencies

With the addition of Stellar Cyber’s Open XDR platform, Boise State's Cyberdome program will offer enterprise-level cybersecurity services, led by students and mentors, to state and local agencies with limited resources.

Boise State University's Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity is teaming up with the cybersecurity company Stellar Cyber to offer discounted security as a service to rural communities throughout Idaho, according to an announcement last week.

Edward Vasko, director of the institute, said the university will add Stellar Cyber’s Open XDR platform, which integrates with a network's existing security tools and combines all their alerts and capabilities together, to its Cyberdome program that enlists students and mentors to reduce cyber threats to rural communities. He said the program was announced last year to give students a chance to work with rural communities in Idaho through paid internships as cybersecurity analysts or engineers.

“The Cyberdome leverages commercial tools like Stellar Cyber's Open XDR platform to provide students real-world training on critical tools like network detection and response, security information event management, a threat intelligence platform and endpoint detection and response,” he said in an email to Government Technology. “These tools are highly useful to help monitor, detect and respond to cyber adversaries. Therefore, our rural communities get terrific technology provided to them, and our students get experience using commercial tools in a real-world environment. That helps our employers know that students hired from the Cyberdome are ready to go starting on day one.”

Vasko said the program will work mainly with rural public agencies in Idaho that may not be able to afford the cybersecurity talent needed to secure their IT assets amid an increase in cyber attacks during COVID-19.

“We’re out helping rural communities and rural clientele like (towns), counties, school districts and so forth because those rural communities can’t afford this type of technology or attract and retain the type of staff and cybersecurity experts able to help secure themselves,” he said. “We're focusing on rural communities because (international and domestic cyber criminal) adversaries are aware that rural communities have critical data and critical infrastructure that are not always secured and monitored by cybersecurity professionals.”

According to Boise State's news release, the city of Sun Valley, Idaho, has already announced plans to work with the Cyberdome and make use of its services.

“Cities and public agencies across the country are increasingly falling victim to sophisticated ransomware attacks, and we want to be fully prepared to address them,” City Administrator Walt Femling said in a public statement. “Boise State’s new Cyberdome program enables us to outsource our cybersecurity preparedness and enhance our protection against such attacks.”

Stellar Cyber's Vice President of Marketing Steve Garrison said the overall goal is to train IT security professionals needed across the public and private sectors throughout the U.S.

“Everyone in cybersecurity is saying this is a talent gap, yet few step forward with a means to train students and get them the hands-on skills needed to be productive as security analysts at both enterprise and managed-security service provider organizations,” he said. “The Stellar Cyber Open XDR platform is ideally suited for the Cyberdome because of its ease of use and suite of built-in tools.”

The Boise State Cyberdome is one of several higher-education initiatives announced recently to train cybersecurity professionals tasked with securing municipal IT networks, including a training and exercise range at Texas A&M University and certification courses for cybersecurity in manufacturing at University of Texas at San Antonio, among many others.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.