Google Awards $1M to University of Arizona for Cybersecurity Clinic

The University of Arizona is taking a significant step forward in enhancing cybersecurity awareness and services in Southern Arizona with the launch of its new Cybersecurity Clinic. This initiative, operated by the UA’s College of Applied Science and Technology, has received a substantial boost, courtesy of a $1 million grant from Google’s Cybersecurity Clinics Fund. Located on the Sierra Vista campus, this clinic aims to bolster digital safety for local businesses and nonprofits by offering a range of cybersecurity services at no cost.

Starting in January, the clinic will provide essential services like vulnerability assessments, security audits, and compliance checks. These offerings are designed to safeguard organizations against the growing menace of cyber threats and ensure their digital operations remain secure and robust.

“This clinic will be instrumental in advancing our community’s understanding of cyber threats and help develop innovative solutions,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “This program reaffirms our commitment to producing highly skilled graduates who will be defenders in the digital age.”

As part of the initiative, participants will benefit from direct mentorship by Google employees, access scholarships for the Google Career Certificate in Cybersecurity, and receive Google Titan Security Keys. These USB devices are crucial tools in the fight against phishing attempts, significantly enhancing cyber safety for users.

Under the guidance of Paul Wagner, associate professor of practice and the clinic’s director, University of Arizona students will play a pivotal role in this endeavor. They will engage directly with clients, providing education and improvements to their cybersecurity practices. “Our model is initially going to start off as a semester-based model,” Wagner explained. “There’s three different classes students could take: an internship, an independent study, or a capstone project.”

Throughout the six-year duration of the grant, the clinic aims to involve 900 students, offering both in-state and out-of-state enrollees the chance to gain invaluable, real-world experience. “The work we provide in the classroom is amazing, but there is always a lack of realism,” Wagner stated. “With this clinic, we are not only helping our students become better future employees — we’re securing our communities.”

In its initial phases, the clinic expects to serve 30 businesses during its first two semesters and has set a target of assisting 150 businesses by the end of the six-year period. While initially focusing on small businesses within Southern Arizona, plans are in place to extend these vital services statewide by the third year.

Those interested in taking advantage of the clinic’s offerings or seeking more information can reach out directly to the College of Applied Science and Technology in Sierra Vista at 520-458-8278. University of Arizona students are encouraged to contact their advisors for more details and to look out for an informational session and newsletter at the start of the fall semester.

In a related focus on improving cybersecurity practices, experts caution against common pitfalls in password creation and management. According to an analysis by ID Agent of password data collected from the dark web, there are significant, often overlooked mistakes that individuals and organizations make. Addressing these weaknesses is essential in fortifying one’s digital defenses against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

With the collaborative efforts between Google and the University of Arizona, along with the active participation of students and the broader community, the new Cybersecurity Clinic is poised to make a lasting impact on the security posture of organizations throughout Arizona.

©2024 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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