Massachusetts Municipal Cybersecurity Summit on Oct. 6 featured perspectives from Springfield Technical Community College student Jackson Perez and Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mary Kaselouskas.

The 2022 Massachusetts Municipal Cybersecurity Summit, held virtually, kicked off with opening remarks from STCC President John B. Cook.

The event was designed to help municipal leaders, first responders, utility providers, and IT personnel improve cybersecurity programs in their city or town. Held during the first week of Massachusetts Cybersecurity Month, the summit highlighted the importance of local cybersecurity resiliency.

Featuring keynotes from Commonwealth and federal leadership, and sessions to learn about the latest threats and modern security concepts – including zero trust architecture, the summit provided opportunities for collaboration and present guidance and information on resources and programs to help municipalities enhance their cyber-culture, protect against cyberattacks, and improve their cybersecurity resiliency.

Stephanie Helm, Director of MassCyberCenter, introduced Dr. Cook, who spoke about the college’s cybersecurity program and its plans to collaborate on the creation of security operations center and cyber range at Springfield Union Station.

“Here at Springfield Technical Community College we understand the importance of cybersecurity for all governments, organizations and even private citizens,” Cook said. “Everyone uses some digital component which could include, as you all know, vulnerability.”

Cook said the future workforce needs to be mindful of vulnerabilities and include cyber protections in their daily routines.

“We seek to make connection with all Massachusetts to recruit students who have the skills to operate information technology and operational technology systems safely and reliably,” he said.

STCC offers degree and certificates in cybersecurity, programming and computer science transfer that prepare students for in-demand careers.  

STCC student Jackson Perez said he is passionate about cybersecurity. He loved to play video games as a child.

“(Cybersecurity) was the perfect career choice for me. I love computers. I could be on the computer all day and I could have the concept of a video game, but make it my job,” he said.

Perez, who is majoring in cybersecurity with a minor in programming, said he is learning different programming languages and also taking different network classes at STCC.

Helm asked Perez, who has an Hispanic background, about the importance of diversity in the cybersecurity field.

“Springfield is the perfect location. It’s diverse. You have every race, every background there,” he said.

But Perez noted that many from diverse backgrounds don’t have friends or family members in cybersecurity to act as role models. “They don’t really know what it is,” he said.

Mary Kaselouskas said it’s difficult to hire skilled people for available positions because not enough people have the necessary training.

“We really need to address how we’re bringing in more people into this field because there is a deficit in this area,” she said.

With the establishment of a Security Operations Center and Cyber Range at Union Station, the academic programs at STCC and other area colleges will have access to hands-on training, Kaselouskas said. “Specific to STCC, the Cyber Range training that we will build into the cybersecurity curriculum will give students an advantage by exposing them to real world scenarios that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to get,” Kaselouskas said. “Short term, we think it will definitely heighten interest in cybersecurity education and we can leverage initiatives at STCC like early childhood and our partnership with the other area nonprofits. Long term, I think it means a better educated and skilled capable workforce ready to work with the Union Station (Security Operations Center) or qualify them to fill jobs in the Greater Springfield area.”

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