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Cyber Bytes: PISCES Program Offers MSU Valuable Real-World Experience in Cyber Security

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The PISCES program offers valuable, real-world experience in cyber security and analysis for Murray State students.

In the next installment of Cyber Bytes, Tracy Ross speaks with Dr. Michael Ramage, the director of Murray State's Cyber Education and Research Center, about Murray State's new collaboration with PISCES (Public Infrastructure Security Cyber Education System) and the real-world experience it will provide students.

"In our first conversation, we talked about the need for organizations to have someone monitor their network for security purposes," Ramage begins. "It may be a threat, malware on their network—in the security world, we call that a SOC, a Security Operations Center. There are a lot of organizations that are really small that don't have the ability to hire somebody to do that. In particular, there are a lot of local governments in our region that can't afford to have that support because it's not free."

Ramage says this is where the PISCES program steps in. PISCES "started as a collaborative effort between SISA, which is the federal agency that oversees cyber security, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. They started working with universities to allow students at universities to serve as analysts for local governments. With PISCES' help, there will be sensors put on networks of local governments that choose to participate. Then, that traffic will be sent to a secured environment where our students can respond to alerts that would be triggered because of suspicious activity on the network. It's as real-world experience as a student could possibly get."

Ramage outlines some courses offered at MSU's Cyber Education and Research Center, including a junior- and senior-level course that discusses cyber security networking, protocol analysis, and more. In addition to other homework activities, students will analyze network alerts, investigate them, and submit a report stating their findings. Reports will be analyzed by MSU instructors before being sent to PISCES for a third, final review.

"Part of the reason the PISCES project started is that there are 600,000 open jobs in the segment of cyber security, a cyber analyst role. Among those, PISCES isn't going to address all 600,000 jobs, but that specific role has a huge need. There are going to be plenty of companies, both locally and nationally, that are going to be standing in line looking for those students."

Ramage says that cyber security is one of the fastest-growing and most in-demand job fields. "If you expand [cyber security] to computer-related jobs right now, there are over five million open jobs. Cyber security is probably one of the largest areas, especially with all that's going on with our world right now. It's a huge opportunity for a student. They're great-paying jobs. We're providing real-world experience for our students and trying to get them that practical, hands-on learning experience. And the opportunities, whether you want to stay in western Kentucky or move to the other side of the country, the opportunities are huge."

For more information on Murray State's Cyber Education and Research Center, visit its website.

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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