Connecting state and local government leaders
The National Cybersecurity Center’s Public Infrastructure Security Cyber Education System trains students to detect network anomalies that threaten communities too small to adequately secure their own systems.
The National Cybersecurity Center’s Public Infrastructure Security Cyber Education System (PISCES) program is expanding to Colorado.
PISCES provides low-cost cybersecurity monitoring for small, under-resourced local governments, along with opportunities for cybersecurity students to gain real world experience. Participating communities can get extra eyes on their data from trained and supervised university students who act as entry-level cyber analysts.
By monitoring network flow data from embedded intrusion detection appliances, students learn to detect irregularities and pinpoint anomalies. When they spot a valid attack or malicious actor, they report threats to the impacted jurisdiction, according to the PISCES website.
Participating agencies purchase a computer to be used as the data collection device. PISCES provides the intrusion detection system that exports security alerts and traffic metadata the students review.
The PISCES appliance is very similar to Albert sensors, the network security monitoring and management service offered by the Center for Internet Security, Ben Edelen, chief information security officer in Boulder County explained in a Feb. 10 video. The main difference is that “for our small governments here in Colorado … it's absolutely free except for the setup,” he said.
Students will be working at the Colorado Security Operations Center -- half of which is dedicated to cybersecurity education – where they will access the data and investigate alerts, National Cybersecurity Center Program Coordinator Jonah Wisch said in the video.
Besides shoring up local government cybersecurity, PISCES aims to address the shortage of cyber professionals by building a talent pipeline. In Colorado, it is working with Metro State University professors to develop a cybersecurity curriculum and give participating students controlled access to real data from communities and municipalities.
The program was originally developed and adopted in Washington State by Mike Hamilton, founder of the cybersecurity firm Critical Insight. PISCES facilitates agreements between local governments, educational institutions and CI, which provides a reduced-functionality version of its commercial monitoring and analytic stack for on-premise data collection, aggregate intrusion detection and network flows and allows analyst access for investigation and event confirmation.
Colorado is the first state outside of Washington to adopt PISCES. Eligible local governments include small counties, municipalities, special districts, school districts and other critical infrastructure with fewer than 150 employees that do not have significant insight into their network security.
PISCES complements other services the National Cybersecurity Center has been developing for Colorado’s local governments and students, like the Colorado State Cyber Range that introduces young people to cybersecurity and offers upskilling for professionals already in the field.
PISCES is supported by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and Pacific Northwest National Labs.
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