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College Students Help Boost Cybersecurity With Free Clinics

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New Program Pairs Universities and Students With Small, Resource-Poor Organizations



Ann Cleaveland, executive director, Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, UC Berkeley

A new initiative in the U.S. is pairing college students with a consortium of university researchers to strengthen cybersecurity defenses for resource-poor organizations such as nonprofits, local governments, elementary schools and small businesses. The cybersecurity clinic program serves as both an educational platform and a way for students to gain practical field experience.

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“Many people are familiar with law students giving pro bono defense to someone who can’t afford a legal team. So, cybersecurity clinics are that exact same model overlaid on the cybersecurity problem,” said Ann Cleaveland, co-lead of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics and executive director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-term Cybersecurity.


Cleaveland said 40% of small businesses reported being the target of a cyberattack last year, but few of those organizations have the skills or expertise in-house to defend against cyberthreats. Under the program, students lead cybersecurity clinics to help organizations find the right solutions on limited budgets.

“They often operate with cybersecurity budgets that approach zero. This forces our students to be exceptionally creative in their problem-solving approaches,” she said.


In this video interview with Information Security Media Group, Cleaveland discussed:


  • The formation and main objectives of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics;

  • Cybersecurity challenges facing small organizations and how colleges can help;

  • Plans to expand the cybersecurity clinic program, aiming for nationwide coverage by 2030.


Cleaveland has been guiding UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity since 2018. She has expertise in nonprofit management, philanthropy and industry and previously served as senior director of strategic planning at the ClimateWorks Foundation and architect of its learning and evaluation systems.



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