The Maryland Innovation and Security Institute (MISI) is a non-profit organization bringing innovative cybersecurity solutions to both the public and private sectors, most notably by improving cyber resiliency in the defense industrial base, while sharpening the skills of young cyber professionals along the way.
Through outreach and education, MISI helps organizations better understand the technologies they are evaluating so that they can feel confident about investing in them. Elastic technology is at the heart of those programs, and many others that MISI spearheads.
Elasticsearch has been a foundational technology for MISI since its inception three years ago. The organization deploys Elastic Observability and Elastic Security, as well as the AWS GovCloud FedRAMP-moderate authorized Elastic Cloud offering across its many projects.
Leveraging Elastic SIEM, MISI operates a security operations center that is a cost-effective service for defense contractors that need to comply with national cybersecurity standards, such as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. This allows MISI to help contractors learn about and protect vulnerable parts of the national security supply chain.
For example, The SolarWinds supply chain attack affected thousands of subscribers to the company’s IT management platform, including large corporations and government agencies. Through its use of Elastic Security, MISI was able to quickly deliver a single-screen view of whether defense contractors were affected—and that insight is helping contractors prepare for and respond to future attacks.
A lot of weaknesses in cybersecurity are rooted in inadequate search capabilities and poor visibility. Solving the problem of cyber resilience hinges on knowing who and what you’re connected to, and what technologies exist in that ecosystem, since, by extension, those are the vulnerabilities your connected system has.
Much of MISI's work takes place at DreamPort, a state-of-the-art facility created in partnership with the US Cyber Command where they provide training and development in a collaborative environment with the government, academia, and industry.
DreamPort hosts rapid prototyping events where organizations can work on a specific challenge in a competition for several days, giving government agencies an opportunity to engage directly with leading companies like Elastic that enable them to bring that technology into the field faster.
DreamPort also serves as a training and education facility for young professionals in the cybersecurity field, many of whom arrive on the job ill-equipped to handle the pace and precision of real-world cybersecurity incidents. Cyber defenders that are new to the job often aren't familiar with how to use the tools available to them in their role.
Seay recounted recently being in a well-equipped security operations center that displayed cyber information on a dashboard that was created with a good tool but was arranged in a jumbled, confusing manner. "Visualization is key," he says. "It's mission-important, so we should expose these young folks to what Elastic can do."
MISI is helping cyber defenders build their security skills in collaboration with the National Security Agency on projects ranging from cryptologic, to the Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (MARFORCYBER), as well as the Cyber Education Diversity Initiative (CEDI). CEDI looks to address the lack of women and minorities in cybersecurity as one way to help increase the workforce.
The MISI Academy also offers programs at historically black colleges and minority-serving institutions designated by the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity.
The academy's internships employ an apprenticeship model in which interns use Elastic tools in real-world, live-scenario exercises while receiving mentorship from subject matter experts. Its interns contribute to the US Cyber Command and various US Department of Defense branches and agencies. After a six-week apprenticeship, many interns report that they have doubled their technical skills.
"We're preparing them to get real jobs, whether in defense or the private sector," Seay says.