Tue | Aug 15, 2023 | 4:45 AM PDT

The great state of Oregon is gearing up to launch its own Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (COE), coming this October. The creation of this center comes on the heels of a bill signed by the state's governor, marking a pivotal moment for the cybersecurity landscape within Oregon.

The COE's establishment is the result of a strategic partnership among three major universities in the state: Portland State University (PSU), Oregon State University (OSU), and the University of Oregon. These academic powerhouses are pooling their collective expertise to address critical cybersecurity challenges and to provide a comprehensive range of services to both public and private sectors, Government Technology reports.

At its core, the COE is tasked with a multifaceted mission. It aims to bolster the state's cyber workforce, cultivate research and development initiatives, facilitate the exchange of vital cybersecurity information, and seek federal funding to fortify its endeavors. Furthermore, the center is poised to offer cybersecurity services to local governments, libraries, school districts, and other entities, thus establishing itself as a cornerstone of digital defense in the state.

Approximately one month ago, a vast majority of Oregon residents had some of their personal information exposed after the Department of Transportation suffered a data breach in connection to the widely-exploited MOVEit Transfer vulnerability. The COE will help the state of Oregon if it finds itself in a similar situation in the future.

In its initial phase, the COE will concentrate on building a robust community of stakeholders while focusing on workforce development. The collaboration will extend beyond the walls of academia, inviting participation from both public and private entities invested in cybersecurity. With the State of Oregon taking the lead, this cooperative approach aims to forge a united front against cyber threats.

Educational initiatives are also central to the COE's objectives. Outside of the three lead universities, the legislation allocates funding for various cyber degree and certification programs. Additionally, the center will address the need for a streamlined and accessible cyber curriculum across educational institutions, thereby providing aspiring cybersecurity professionals with a clearer path to success.

Despite the ambitious aspirations of the COE, budget constraints have necessitated the prioritization of initiatives. The originally proposed provisions requiring the center to report on the cybersecurity resilience of non-state public entities were omitted due to financial limitations. However, the center's leadership remains committed to exploring opportunities to address these concerns in the future.

As the launch date approaches, the COE faces a series of crucial tasks, including establishing operational agreements among the participating universities, formalizing a charter, and appointing key administrative personnel. The confirmation of the COE's director, expected in the coming weeks, will mark a pivotal milestone, allowing the transfer of responsibilities to begin.

In the spirit of proactive cybersecurity, the COE intends to foster a culture of awareness through online discussions featuring expert speakers. Regular engagements with stakeholders will serve as platforms for identifying gaps, sharing insights, and collectively addressing challenges. The envisioned Cybersecurity Advisory Council, composed of diverse voices from tribal communities, counties, and education districts, will play an instrumental role in shaping the center's agenda.

With the collective efforts of academia, government, and industry, the COE is poised to fortify the state's defenses against cyber threats while nurturing a new generation of cyber professionals ready to navigate the complexities of the digital age.

The Establishment Plan for the  Oregon Cybersecurity Center of Excellence is available here.

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