John Tolley, August 12, 2019

With election interference and data breaches dotting the news cycle, it is clear why the field of cybersecurity looms large in our collective conscious. Ever-changing threats lurk about the web, ready to ensnare individuals and institutions alike.

Much is made of the measures taken to strengthen the defenses of our government agencies and financial firms, but what of our colleges and universities? They are home to vast stores of information, from sensitive research data to the personal details of millions of students and their families.

With this in mind, five Big Ten members have teamed to create a centralized hub of cybersecurity collaboration. OmniSOC, founded by Northwestern University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Indiana University, is an initiative that works to quickly identify threats and initiate countermeasures, thus reducing the time would-be hackers have to wreak havoc.

Operating around the clock, 365 days a year, this cybersecurity operations center is based on the campus of Indiana University and works in conjunction with the Global Network Operations Center (GlobalINOC.) Drawing real-time information from a wealth of government, commercial and education-based sources, OmniSOC's services cover automated mitigation, threat analysis, telemetry and data services, and visibility/advice. The goal is "to minimize the time from first awareness of a vulnerability anywhere to effective mitigation everywhere for members."

 

 

OmniSOC also provides students at member institutions with a one-of-a-kind learning experience. This summer a cohort of students from Rutgers, Indiana and Nebraska had the opportunity to experience the constant vigilance and intelligence it takes to safeguard precious data stores. Working on the campuses of Rutgers and Indiana, the students engaged with OmniSOC staffers to better understand how threat analysis and mitigation procedures are implemented within the network. Additionally, they visited such blue-chip firms as AT&T and Cisco Systems as well as the FBI to meet with IT and cybersecurity experts.

"My favorite part about this internship was learning under the guidance of different professionals within OmniSOC," said recent Rutgers grad Cassandra Begin, speaking with Rutgers Today. "Having access to their expertise and knowing that they have many years of experience within the cybersecurity industry was invaluable during my time at Indiana University and with my home team at Rutgers. I learned a great deal from asking these mentors various questions and getting advice on career goals within the IT field."

OmniSOC's larger mission is in keeping with other conference organizations such as the Big Ten Academic Alliance and the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Much more than just an athletic conference, the Big Ten is a collection of institutions that are world leaders in a great many fields. Key to the strong ties between Big Ten universities is the underpinning of collaboration and cooperation that allows for the free flow of information and ideas.

To learn more about OmniSOC and their work to thwart hackers and protect systems for their members, click here.