Bobby Freeman Named Director
By Jack Criss
Director Bobby Freeman was selected as director of the Mississippi Cyber Unit within the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security in January of this year. Freeman is a native of Lincoln County and he holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Master of Science in Cyber Security from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.
Freeman enlisted in the Mississippi Army National Guard (MSARNG) in May, 1998 and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps from the University of Southern Mississippi, in May 2005. Additionally, Director Freeman currently holds a range of industry certifications, including: CompTIA’s Advanced Security Practitioner, Security+, and the EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker.
His key military assignments are numerous, including Signal Officer, 1-155th Infantry Battalion; Company Executive Officer, Alpha Company, 2d Battalion 47th Infantry Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia; Signal Company Commander, 155th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and Signal Officer, 106th Brigade Support Battalion, among many others.
Director Freeman is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the MSARNG and is a Cyber Warfare officer serving as the team chief for the Defensive Cyber Operations Element, G6, Joint Force Headquarters, MSARNG. With the MSARNG, Dir. Freeman mobilized to Iraq in 2009 with the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team as the Company Commander for the brigade’s Signal Company. He also mobilized domestically with the MSARNG’s Cyber Protection Team detachment in 2018 and again in 2021.
Director Freeman’s military education includes the Signal Officer Basic Course, Warfighter Information Network Systems Planner Course, Initial Entry Training Cadre Course, Army Operations Electronic Warfare Course, Human Resources Captains Career Course, Army National Guard Force Management Course, and an Advanced Operations Course Graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College. His federal military awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Mobilization Device, Army Service Ribbon, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, and Parachutist Badge. His state military awards include the Mississippi Magnolia Medal, Mississippi Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, Mississippi War Medal, Mississippi Emergency Service Medal, and the Mississippi Longevity Medal with four bronze oak leaf clusters.
DBJ: This is a newly-created department/unit based in Jackson you’re now head of, correct?
Freeman: Yes. It is inside the Department of Public Safety and the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security, a sub-office of the national agency. The Mississippi Cyber Unit was created to address what are normally considered homeland security issues, but in the digital realm. This domain is always changing and our unit will be shoring up our critical infrastructure and providing resources. I was officially brought aboard on January 1 by the state’s Homeland Security Office and its Director, Baxter Krueger.
DBJ: How is the new Unit different from other cyber units such as what exists within the F.B.I.?
Freeman: While we will be working with the F.B.I., the Secret Service and national Homeland Security, our mission will be geared specifically towards Mississippi interests and trying to get ahead of the criminal activity, to begin with. We do so through assessments and provide specified cyber-threat intelligence to specific local and state entities as opposed to issuing general bulletins or warnings.We’ll have a Cyber Instant Response Team (CIRT) on hand to go out and help recover and remediate from any attacks they may have been hit with, whether ransom, phishing or others.
DBJ: So you’ll be working with private entities in Mississippi as well as public?
Freeman: Yes. Just as anyone can reach out to the Department of Public Safety they may do so with us. That said, we may then refer them out to other state resources which might be a better fit for the response needed. Our new unit’s direct response, however, will be focused on Mississippi cities, schools and local assets, such as infrastructure.
DBJ: For you to even be Director of a newly-created Unit must indicate that cyber security issues are a major and growing problem in Mississippi. Is that the case?
Freeman: We’ve certainly had multiple issues here, especially with ransomware attacks. Thus far, though,we’ve been a little more fortunate than many other states. Our state leadership, though—lead by Governor Reeves—is trying to get ahead of these problems and attacks and that is why our unit came into being. We want to be prepared and not just reactive.
DBJ: How big of a team, or staff, do you have under you currently?
Freeman: We are currently getting ready to conduct interviews for our first four positions on the unit and then we’ll be expanding outward as the need arises. Our ultimate goal is to have the CIRT team not only here in Jackson but also in different areas of the state, as well.
DBJ: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish in your new position?
Freeman: I’m a Mississippi native, from the Lincoln County area, and my military experience has prepared me for this job. It’s important that we keep our state safe from cyber attacks and that is certainly my plan. Realistically, as defenders, we have to be right 100 percent of the time, unlike the criminals. I want to build good relationships here in the state to provide timely response and, again, get ahead of attacks to prevent them from happening.