Gov. Edwards, President Tate Open Doors to New LSU Cybersecurity Operations Center, Protection Model for Louisiana

October 19, 2023

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Taking part in the ribbon cutting for the LSU and LONI Security Operations Center are, from left, Chief Cyber Officer Dustin Glover, Louisiana; President William F. Tate IV, LSU; Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana Board of Regents; Governor John Bel Edwards, Louisiana; Rob Jansen, CEO, TekStream; Bill Rowan, VP Public Sector, Splunk; Lonnie Leger, LONI (Louisiana Optical Network Infrastructure).

Today, Governor John Bel Edwards and LSU President William F. Tate IV cut the ribbon to the LSU and LONI Security Operations Center, or SOC, on the flagship campus in Baton Rouge, opening the doors to a new cybersecurity workforce development and protection model for Louisiana and LSU that is garnering national attention.

“Louisiana is setting a nationwide standard for cybersecurity because of our pioneering and proactive approach rooted in higher education,” said Governor Edwards. “Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated and are a constant threat to individuals, businesses and government entities. LSU is harnessing the collective power of our immensely talented students in order to protect citizens from cyber threats while also growing our workforce. Louisiana’s record low unemployment is proof that innovation leads to job creation, and the LSU SOC is exactly the type of forward-thinking project that will keep this momentum going.”

“When we declared our commitment to becoming the foremost cybersecurity program in the nation, we were resolute,” LSU President William F. Tate IV said. “A primary cybersecurity challenge our nation confronts today is the shortage of a skilled workforce. We require more well-trained cyber warriors. Through the SOC, we are enhancing the development of cyber talent while fulfilling our flagship mission to protect and serve our state.”

Through its new SOC, LSU and Louisiana are leading the nation in how to train and graduate students who can actively join the cyber fight and gain real-world, real-time experience working in direct service to the state. In the past three weeks, 94 LSU students have applied to receive training as professional cyber analysts to operate the SOC at the heart of the flagship campus. The students working at the SOC will be responsible for monitoring and analyzing the university’s network traffic as well as identifying and escalating potential threats. 

The LSU SOC is the first node in an emerging statewide cybersecurity platform powered by the Louisiana Optical Network Infrastructure, or LONI, the state’s research and development network that connects Louisiana’s universities and community and technical colleges. By extending the SOC through LONI, every institution of higher education will have the ability to establish their own student-operated center and receive additional security services. This new model—educating students to provide services the university critically needs and then extending it into a platform to serve a greater purpose—has the immediate potential to change the security posture of the whole state. 

To build its SOC platform, LSU turned to TekStream, an Atlanta-based technology services firm, and Splunk, one of the world’s leading data and security technology companies. TekStream supports SOC management and incident response, while Splunk provides the core analytic and monitoring technology. 

Earlier this week, LSU announced $7.5 million in state investment to expand the LSU-LONI SOC model to more than 30 colleges and universities in the state, at no additional cost to each institution. Increased cybersecurity protection across higher education will come with broader impacts for Louisiana, offsetting the state’s need to respond to cyberattacks and limiting key attack vectors. Universities’ diverse data landscapes are often the first to pick up on new cyber threats, which then tend to cascade through critical infrastructure, industry and state and local government. 

“The Governor tasked us to both strengthen our statewide cybersecurity and build a homegrown cyber workforce—today, we are doing just that,” Commissioner of Higher Education and Chair of Louisiana’s Cybersecurity Commission Kim Hunter Reed said. “The SOC model means every public institution is positioned to acquire and build the additional cybersecurity defense to meet its unique campus needs. We are grateful for the state, corporate and institutional support that has resulted in this integrated and innovative approach to data protection and student engagement in Louisiana.”

Besides the physical SOC on LSU’s flagship campus in Baton Rouge, LSU Shreveport operates its own. The Shreveport SOC is an extension of the LSUS Cyber Collaboratory and will also work seamlessly with industry partners Splunk as the platform and technology provider and TekStream on service and training. 

“LSU is building one of the nation’s strongest whole-of-state plans for cybersecurity, and we’re starting to receive inquiries from all over about the ‘LSU and Louisiana model,’” Splunk Vice President of Public Sector Bill Rowan said. “Usually, we rely on talent to help us innovate, but this SOC flips that on its head: innovating to help produce talent, and Splunk couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this effort with TekStream.” 

“Our model was always to provide SOC services by implementing Splunk technology, but we jumped at the opportunity to do something different with LSU,” TekStream CEO Rob Jansen said. “We essentially agreed to work our way out of business by helping to train students to do more and more advanced work. Why? Because we saw all of the amazing upsides of the partnership, since we all struggle to find and hire enough talent. That’s why the LSU-LONI model is groundbreaking; it’s a first in our industry and the number and caliber of talented student applicants we’ve already received is staggering.”