Network & Security Operations Center
A First of its Kind at UMass Boston
Cybersecurity—the state of being protected against criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data and the measures taken to achieve a protected state—requires tremendous time, effort, and resources (staff). At UMass Boston, the Network Services and Information Security Office (ISO) have historically kept the university community cyber-safe, and their shared mission took a tremendous step forward in 2022 with the launch of the UMass Boston Network & Security Operations Center (NSOC).
The NSOC, which opened at the start of the 2022 Fall semester, under the joint leadership of Wil Khouri, Chief Information Security Officer, and Jamie Soule, Director of Network Services, was established to serve two very important purposes for UMass Boston. First, it will be a fully functioning center that constantly monitors cybersecurity threats to the university’s network and data. More remarkably, the NSOC will be staffed by student employees and apprentices from the UMass Boston PACE program.
Yes, that’s right. The vital and crucial function that the NSOC was created to serve will be the responsibility of students under the supervision of ISO staff when typically, facilities like this would only hire professionals with years of experience in their field. “This is the first of its kind on campus,” Soule said. “It’s a mentoring facility and a training opportunity for PACE apprentices, with mentoring from senior information technology professionals.” He added, “We have three main critical IT facilities. We call them our little data centers; iHub, ISC (Integrated Science Complex), and University Hall. This facility is the fourth, in my opinion, the fourth critical IT facility on our campus.”
Besides the mentoring the students will receive, they will also receive guidance in operating the facility and the soft skills needed to become IT professionals themselves. An information security analyst will be hired to oversee the operation, and current ISO staff will also be in place to instruct the students if new situations should arise. As Wil Khouri explained, “The way I look at it now is that the students will become Tier One support and will be responsible for monitoring dashboards and reporting issues. (Current ISO staff members) Alison (Murray), David (Bonczar), and probably Daniel (Mayer) will be Tier Two responsible for mentoring and issue resolution.”
The students working in the NSOC will obtain real-world experience that they can add to their resumes and expect to become highly skilled in doing all that’s needed for the NSOC to meet its objectives. Khouri and Soule pointed out that the students selected to work in the NSOC will be exceptionally fortunate. “This is such a great opportunity. These students are going to get real-life network and information security technology skills. They’re going to be monitoring a live university network.” Soule said. Khouri said more understatedly, “We complement their education.” Both men insisted that NSOC apprentices get comprehensive on-the-job training, making them more than qualified and prepared to get almost any IT job they desire after graduation.
Besides its innovative mentoring concept, the NSOC also represents the next generation in network and cybersecurity partnering. As Jamie put it, “There’s a list of things that security has done to make our technology infrastructure more secure, more reliable, less risky. The NSOC is a testament to ongoing network and information security efforts to provide a reliable and safe computing experience to our campus. It is a crown jewel facility for UMass Boston and our students.”
Wil had another take on it. He compared what the NSOC will do to creating a symphony. “You have the piano. You have the violins. Who will bring all those instruments together? If you put an orchestra together, you still need a conductor. And the NSOC is our conductor.”
“The NSOC is a testament to ongoing network and information security efforts to provide a reliable and safe computing experience to our campus." —Jamie Soule, Director of Network Services