Author: Ashley Scheideman

CYBERSECURITY COMPANY NOVACOAST TO OPEN NEW SECURITY OPERATIONS CENTER IN WICHITA

Originally published by the Greater Wichita Partnership

Wichita, Kan. – Novacoast, a cybersecurity and identity and access management company that provides end-to-end technical solutions to a global customer base, including managed security services, advisory and software development, announced today it is opening a new Security Operations Center in Wichita. In addition to the 24-7 Security Operations Center, the Wichita office will include sales, software development and cybersecurity engineering. The company plans to initially hire 60 employees with plans for continued growth.

According to Novacoast CEO Paul Anderson, the company was planning an expansion in another area of the country and had not considered the Wichita region. It wasn’t until the Greater Wichita Partnership proactively asked about the company’s business needs and shared information about the region’s information technology and cybersecurity assets that Anderson saw what a perfect fit Wichita and the surrounding area is.

Anderson said, “We were intrigued with the Partnership’s message and then with the entire community because of the overwhelming support from industry, education and elected leaders. I’ve been running companies for over 25 years and haven’t come across such a welcoming and exceptional place to do business as I’ve found in Wichita.”

Novacoast will establish its principal office in the Epic Center in downtown Wichita. “On our site visits, we experienced first-hand the investment in downtown and were extremely impressed,” said Anderson.

Founded in 1996, the privately held company, headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., has more than 350 employees. The company currently runs Security Operation Centers in California, Michigan, Manchester, United Kingdom and Guatemala City, Guatemala.

“This is a great company with a global reach and an impactful business attraction win for the Wichita region and Kansas,” said Jeff Fluhr, President of the Greater Wichita Partnership. “Our community’s collaborative approach to promote our assets and share insight into our information technology and cybersecurity ecosystem was key to securing this new global business and new jobs for our community.”

Novacoast cited the following cybersecurity and IT assets in its location decision:  the 184th Intelligence Wing for the Air National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base; Wichita State University and the National Institute for Aviation Research and National Institute for Digital Transformation; education partners, including nationally-certified cybersecurity programs at WSU and Butler Community College, IT training at WSU Tech, and Friends University Cyber Security Lab; and leaders from among the 110 local tech companies and FlagshipKansas.Tech.

According to Fluhr, leaders from more than 20 local and state organizations worked together through multiple interactions and three site visits with the company to demonstrate the region’s cybersecurity assets, information and support for business, including Governor Laura Kelly, Lt. Governor David Toland and the Kansas Department of Commerce, United States Senator Jerry Moran, Sedgwick County Chairman Pete Meitzner, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple as well as other community leaders and partners.

“Novacoast is, without question, a perfect fit for Wichita,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “Our interconnected, digital world makes cybersecurity even more critical now and into the future for Kansans and our industries alike. To have a well-established cybersecurity leader decide to put down roots here in Wichita and Kansas is spectacular. Congratulations to Wichita and to Novacoast on this exciting new partnership.”

Cybersecurity and IT systems and support are identified as target industries for growth in the Regional Growth Plan, a strategy to grow Greater Wichita’s economy, attract new businesses and expand existing industries. In addition, it is also in the State of Kansas’ Framework for Growth, created through the Kansas Department of Commerce.

“Congratulations to Novacoast, and thank you for expanding your cutting-edge security solutions here in Wichita, and in Kansas,” Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “Cybersecurity is the first initiative of the Framework for Growth’s Kansas Competitiveness Project, designed to bring new skills and technologies to drive our economic performance. We’re excited for your future here, and the important work you will do every day to help protect people and places in Kansas and well beyond.”

The majority of Novacoast’s customers are highly regulated global firms such as global banks, healthcare and energy companies. Its subsidiary Novacoast Federal provides services to agencies such as NASA, US Patent & Trademark, IRS and the Federal Reserve System among others.

“As a national leader in cybersecurity development and implementation, I am pleased that Novacoast has chosen Kansas as the location for its new Security Operations Center,” said Senator Jerry Moran. “The Wichita region has already proven itself as a leader in cyber technology at institutions like Wichita State University, Friends University and the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, and Novacoast will certainly benefit from the impressive cyber talent pipeline located in the region. Novacoast’s move will bring more cybersecurity jobs to Kansas, and, more importantly, will foster powerful research partnerships to help our nation address its most critical cybersecurity challenges.”

According to Anderson, Novacoast plans to begin hiring immediately, primarily for security analysts and with jobs for software development positions already posted on KansasWorks.com. 

“Wichita is thrilled to welcome Novacoast to our city,” said Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple. “This will not only provide well-paying high-tech jobs to Wichitans, but Novacoast’s selection of Wichita is evidence of our focused efforts to diversify our regional economy.”

Sedgwick County Chairman Pete Meitzner said, “I have had the privilege of meeting this very exciting company and the Novacoast leadership. I am excited they have chosen our city and area to further their world market in the growing field of cybersecurity.”

The Wichita region was named No. 1 in digital service job growth in 2018 by Brookings Institution and recognized as the No. 3 engineering hub by Engineering Daily.

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About the Greater Wichita Partnership

The Greater Wichita Partnership is focused on one primary objective: to fast-forward regional economic growth in Wichita and South Central Kansas. The organization works within three key priorities – jobs, talent and quality of place – to accelerate this objective.

National designation means fresh credibility, new opportunities for Butler Community College’s cybersecurity program

Butler Community College has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in cybersecurity defense by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

“This affirms that we set the bar higher for our programs,” said Brett Eisenman, associate professor of computer information technology at Butler, where students can earn a certificate or associate degree in cybersecurity.

Butler helps train students to deal with growing cybersecurity threats and prepares them for jobs such as security analysts and network administrators.

“Your ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well,” Karen Leuschner, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education at the NSA, said in a letter to Butler announcing the designation.

Butler joins Johnson County Community College as the only two-year school in Kansas with the designation, which is good through 2024. Wichita State, Kansas, Kansas State and Fort Hays State all have the designation as well.

“We’re so foundational,” said Eisenman, who is the department chair for cyber security and networking administration. “We’re like the groundwork for what students need to have to go on to WSU or Friends or any other four-year school.

“I think that’s what makes us fit so well into the whole (cyber security) hub. We can provide them with their basic certifications.”

About 60 students are enrolled in the program.

A foundation “we can trust”

Butler holds an articulation agreement with Friends which grants students their first two years toward the cyber security degree at Friends. Friends accepts up to 78 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree from Butler cybersecurity graduates and also has a cyber security master’s program.

Butler’s designation “tells us they’ve got a pretty solid foundation that we can trust,” said Lt. Col. Andrew VanderZeil, squadron commander in the Cybersecurity Group of the 184th Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. “They’re doing it right.”

Regardless of the industry, “it’s always challenging to know if the talent that’s coming in front of you is genuine or if they’re a paper tiger,” VanderZeil said.

Butler “always has a good track record of creating students who care, with a passion and real knowledge.”

Butler has also partnered with Wichita State University (WSU) and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) to offer students a four-year coordinated program through the applied computing curriculum where students will receive a Cyber Security Associate in Applied Science degree at Butler Community College in the first two years and a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Computing from WSU or a Bachelor of Technology in Information Technologies at OSUIT after two additional years.

More resources, job opportunities

The designation isn’t just a nice plaque to hang on the wall, Eisenman said. It will result in much more recognition within the industry.

“We’re already seeing more portals of job opportunities and resources available for us as instructors,” he said.

That includes using a variety of scenarios and simulations they can use in their courses, including remote pin testing, remote capture the flag games and exercises “that will hopefully be more appealing to kids these days,” Eisenman said.

Cybersecurity doesn’t have the flash that developing video games does, he said.

“It’s hard in this visually stimulated age to get students interested in finding clues and finding breaches, finding where things went wrong,” Eisenman said. “You’re looking for clues.”

Butler’s program has what could almost be described as a stem cell approach to teaching cyber security, in that students are given a strong foundation of the fundamentals and then build from there.

That’s appealing to VanderZeil and employers in general.

“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in…those basic foundational skills, they’re always the hardest to build,” VanderZeil said.

If someone from Butler joins the National Guard and comes to work at the 184th, “we’re not having to tear things apart and rebuild what they know,” he said. “We can draft them toward their passion, figure out what they want to do and help them do it, instead of teaching them the basics of hammering and sawing.”

Skill sets constantly changing

One of the components that makes Butler’s program so effective is the constant updating of the curriculum to take into account the ever-changing threats, officials said.

“Every day we’re hearing there’s a new data breach or new security issue of one kind or another, and we’re training the next generation of workforce employees to be able to combat these bad actors that are out in the world,” said Kevin Lann-Teubner, associate professor of computer information technology.

Keeping up with the ever-changing threats means constantly updating the curriculum, Eisenman said.

“Anything in the IT industry is rapidly moving,” he said. “The skill set’s constantly changing. Kevin and I lament all the time that we should have been math teachers, because two plus two is still four.

“They write their classes one time and use it for twenty years and enjoy their summers. We spend our summers and Christmas vacation rewriting classes and learning new technology.”

Developing ‘soft skills’

While staying on top of the latest threats is an important piece of the cybersecurity program, Lann-Teubner said helping students to develop good “soft skills” – such as working in teams and being able to explain themselves well – is significant as well.

One of the three main cybersecurity labs at Butler is set up for students to work in teams and sharpen those skills, he said.

“We have a texting culture and people are real comfortable doing that,” Lann-Teubner said. “Get them in a group with each other and it’s a different story.”

But they need to become comfortable talking with others to succeed in their careers, he said.

“You’ve got to be able to talk to your peers, but you’ve also got to be able to talk to that C-class,” Lann-Teubner said, referring to executives. “They don’t know how to talk tech.”

The national designation covers more than the cybersecurity classes students take at Butler.

It covers the “institution as a whole,” Lann-Teubner said. “I had to prove that our information technology department also takes cybersecurity seriously.”

He and Eisenman also had to show that other departments teach students about cybersecurity threats.

This isn’t the first time Butler’s cybersecurity program has been certified by the National Security Agency. But this new certification means Butler meets updated standards that have been developed by the NSA, Eisenman said.

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Author Credits | Stan Finger | @StanFinger | Stan is an award-winning journalist who twice earned nominations for the Pulitzer Prize over the course of a distinguished career at the Wichita Eagle. A native Kansan who grew up on a farm in central Kansas, Finger has also written two books: Into the Deep, a look at the deadly flash flood in the Flint Hills in 2003, and the novel Fallen Trees.

Photo Credits | Butler Community College | butlercc.edu

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