AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – USC Aiken held a grand opening ceremony for its new Security Operations Center on Monday morning, increasing the cyber security presence in the area.

“It will help our students learn network security and also network analysis,” said Dr. Hala Strohmier Berry, an assistant professor of cyber security at the univerisity. “At the same time, we can expand this to help the entire community in the region.”

The center will be used in collaboration with the South Carolina National Guard to help secure the networks at USC Aiken, its satellite campuses and other networks in the area.

“We came up with a business model over time,” said Brad Owens, a retired U.S. Army Major General and the director of joint staff for the S.C. National Guard. “We’d partner with universities and provided capital investment, and in return we got a collaborative environment in which our soldiers could train and work with the universities in various ways.”

It will also give senior cyber security students Tier 1 analyst experience before they graduate.

Isha Pawar, one of the three senior student SOC analysts, remembers finding compromised alumni email accounts during their first week of training.

“It was like a huge issue and there was a huge buzz about finding our first real incident, analyzing it and no one really knowing about this problem until we had this,” she said.

Those who helped spearhead the project believe that it will draw good attention to the university. 

“We feel like we offer something that other universities in our state do not, and that is the opportunity to get some hands-on experience in a SOC and eventually get some experience working elbow-to-elbow with the National Guard, cyber soldiers, and Fort Gordon soldiers as well,” said Ernest Pringle, the vice chancellor of information technology and communications information officer at the university. “So I think that’ll be a huge recruiting advantage for us.”

University leaders and students said the center will advance South Carolina’s cyber security landscape, and give the students an advantage among their peers.