New cybersecurity center trains and protects

Matt Escamilla, Staff Reporter

CI Security (CIS), a cybersecurity company, has made Ellensburg the home for its second operations center. According to Garrett Silver, CEO of CIS, the company chose Ellensburg over Denver, Colorado Phoenix, Arizona and Boise, Idaho and many other locations across the country. CIS had an open house on Sept. 27.      

CIS had two locations in the Northwest prior to the Ellensburg location. The CIS headquarters is located in Seattle and has been since 2017. CIS’s first operations center is in Bremerton.

According to Silver CIS needed a second security operations center in case the Bremerton facility experienced an operational outage.                                   

According to Silver, the idea of having a second operations center within driving distance of Seattle and Bremerton was an added benefit. 

According to Mike Hamilton, the founder of CIS, having a new business come to a town creates a beneficial opportunity for the local economy. 

“It makes incredible sense for us strategically as a company to locate our operating centers near places like [Ellensburg], because we have a pipeline of employees who don’t want to leave,” Hamilton said. 

Courtney Pecha, a security operations center supervisor at the Ellensburg location, graduated last summer from CWU with a degree in information technology and administrative management with an emphasis on cybersecurity. She has been part of CIS since January, Pecha mentioned that Hamilton came to CWU to talk to the Information Technology and Administrative Management (ITAM) students about a year ago.

“I thought it was very exciting that there was going to be a cybersecurity company coming to a small town,” Pecha said. 

According to Silver, CWU was very receptive to the possibility of CIS coming to Ellensburg.

“There was a real sense of partnership between CWU and CI security as we were looking for a place to put our security operations center,” Silver said.

 Silver mentioned the three-step process in order to become a security analyst at CIS. An internship with the company lasts around six to eight weeks, while a resident analyst position, which occurs after the internship, lasts three to six months. If the trainee passes resident analyst training, they are then given the chance to become a security analyst.

According to Silver, their customers are organizations that sustain the health of communities, such as hospitals, utility companies, and emergency response units. 

“Our primary task is to investigate IDS (intrusion detection system) events, some of these events are found through threat hunting, while some create tickets in our queue automatically. For all investigations, we make determinations on whether the events are false positives or malicious, in which case we contact the customer. Analysts also monitor infrastructure health, and work on various projects to improve automated detections.”

The Ellensburg center has five employees at the moment, in the next two years, CIS hopes to hire 25-50 more cyber analysts.

This upcoming January, the ITAM department will use a program called Pisces, which was developed by CIS. According to Andreas Bohman, Vice President of Operations at CWU, ITAM has built Pisces into their curriculum for students to learn CIS’s system.

According to Jake Milstein, Chief of Brand Marketing and Content for CI Security the students using the Pisces program watch the city’s network, to monitor potential cyber-attacks. If a cyber attack takes place, CIS can contact their customer and resolve the issue.

Bohman is excited about the economic development opportunities for Ellensburg with the arrival of CIS. 

“We are within driving distance to Seattle, Just 90 minutes away. This I think, is a great opportunity for us to evolve the job opportunities in Ellensburg and complement jobs that are already here,” Bohman said. 

Bohman also mentioned that it’s important to understand and support the agricultural feeling of Ellensburg while also providing students the chance to have high tech jobs in Ellensburg.