Home » MBJ FEATURE » Cybersecurity experts hunting cyber threats from home in Mississippi
Wilke heads up a cyber security operation from her home in Bay St. Louis.

Cybersecurity experts hunting cyber threats from home in Mississippi

A network of cybersecurity experts working from their homes in South Mississippi are on the hunt for cyber threats IN a multitude of industry environments.

Rebekah Wilke, who works from her Bay St. Louis home, heads a virtual security operations center for Raytheon Foreground Security that provides advance cyber monitoring, threat hunting and other professional services.

“Providing protection from targeted attacks requires a certain level of expertise and that’s what we’re building out here in Mississippi,” she said.

Wilke and her team in Mississippi and other locations are working “24/7, 365” so their clients in industries such as financial services and utilities won’t get hacked by cybercriminals.

Wilke, a native of Petal, is an Army veteran with a degree in international business. She credits the military with providing her training in cybersecurity and computer networks. “I found myself in a program that allowed me to learn a lot of interesting things,” she said.

Her experience working for the Army Intelligence Security Command in Fort Belvoir, Va., gave her the leverage needed to join the growing cybersecurity industry.

Managed security service providers like the one she heads provide made-to-order services to help keep their clients’ data secure by understanding advanced threats IN the industry. “We ask them, ‘What are your problems, what keeps you up at night?’”

Wilke said in the past the response to cyber attacks tended to be reactive. Raytheon Foreground’s model is to anticipate threats, as well as detecting and responding to advanced threats and vulnerabilities across the client’s network.

“The landscape of security is changing as the market matures, and it’s important we work proactively to find the adversaries,” she said.

Wilke works along with Michelle Jennings, Raytheon Foreground security program manager in Herndon, Va., and Mark Orlando, director of cyber operations in Chicago, to continue to develop cutting-edge technology.

Her team consists of 55 people, including 15 in south Mississippi, who work around the clock monitoring and analyzing information.

Most of the other employees are located in the Orlando, Fla., and Washington, D.C., areas. Employees stay on the forefront of cybersecurity techniques through training and research.

“Our retention level is extremely high,” she said. “People aren’t getting bored at work.”

Analysts spend their day parsing through different customer accounts as they hunt for advanced threats within those networks using next-generation security and response practices.

Employees work at home on standard laptops, monitors and network capabilities. Raytheon Foreground Security’s cutting edge tools and sophisticated processes help them assess vulnerability to an attack.

“They’re sitting in front of a computer screen connected to the ‘mothership’ so they are able to go into a customer’s environment without interfering with their data,” she said. Because analysts are familiar with the client’s IT systems and activities, they can pinpoint events that are customer specific.

“There is a whole science behind detection methods and techniques. Each threat is different,” she said.
Raytheon Company bought Herndon, Va.-based Foreground Security in October to expand its managed security services. The new company has approximately 165 employees, nearly all of them trained cybersecurity experts.

She said there are opportunities for those interested in working in cybersecurity in Mississippi.

Raytheon Foreground looks for a variety of skills including engineering. “We look for (someone) well rounded, flexible and collaborative, who understands the nuances of network traffic,” she said. “And they have to be passionate about the field.”

A junior analyst starts at $50,000 a year, she said.

Wilke said she’d like to see Mississippi recognized for being a key part of the cybersecurity industry. “It’s a good example of what is really happening in Mississippi that is not being showcased,” she said.

Raytheon, a technology company specializing in defense, civil government and cybersecurity markets, has 61,000 employees worldwide and had sales of $23 billion in 2014. Foreground is part of Raytheon’s intelligence, information and services business which had revenue of $6 billion in 2015.

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