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Alabama’s Stillman College gets major Google grant for its cybersecurity center | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


Stillman College Cybersecurity Center has secured a $500,000 grant plus additional support from the Google Cybersecurity Clinics Fund to build a diverse pipeline of cybersecurity professionals and to help surrounding community organizations defend themselves against cyberattacks.

“A diverse cybersecurity workforce is simply better equipped to handle the challenges of the industry. When we have people from different backgrounds and with different life experiences, we get a wider range of ideas and solutions,” said Melonie Parker, Google’s chief diversity officer, who came to Stillman’s Tuscaloosa campus to announce the grant and additional program support.

“As an alumna of Hampton University, it gives me great pride to continue Google’s long-standing partnership with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and support Stillman’s pioneering cybersecurity clinic program,” Parker said.

The funding from Google.org – the company’s philanthropic arm – is part of a $20 million collaboration with the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced earlier this year. Founded in 2021, the consortium serves as a forum for clinicians, trainers, students and advocates to share knowledge, expand the reach of cybersecurity clinics and lower the barriers for other institutions to establish their own clinics.

In addition to the grant, Google is offering Stillman volunteer mentorship from Google employees, support from Google’s Titan Security Keys system, designed to help prevent account takeovers from phishing attacks, and scholarships for the new Google Career Certificate in cybersecurity, according to a news release from the company.

Melonie Parker, Google chief diversity officer, Stillman College President Yolanda Page, Maab Ibrahim, Google racial justice lead, and Kevin Harris, executive director of Stillman’s Cybersecurity DEI Clinic, at the announcement of a Google grant and other support for the college’s cybersecurity programs. (contributed)

“We are appreciative to Google for its support and for recognizing Stillman’s Cybersecurity Center as one that can truly make a difference in fighting these threats right here at home,” said Kevin Harris, executive director of Stillman’s Cybersecurity DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) Clinic. “We look forward to the impact this grant will have on our students and in our communities, specifically for those public infrastructure organizations with limited resources, including nonprofits, hospitals, local government agencies and small businesses.”

Cyberattacks increased by 38% globally in 2022, according to Check Point Research, and have cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars during the past five years, according to a report by the FBI. Despite the need for more Cybersecurity professionals, Cyber Seek reports more than 650,000 unfilled positions in the U.S., including more than 11,000 openings in Alabama.  There’s also a need to improve diversity in the industry, with Blacks making up only 9% of the industry workforce. As the only HBCU that holds a membership in the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, Stillman “is poised to continue building a pipeline of more diverse cybersecurity talent,” the Google news release said.

University cybersecurity clinics provide free security services in the same way law or medical schools offer free clinics in their communities. They also give Stillman students the opportunity to learn and improve their skills, while helping to protect critical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and energy grids.

Google Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Park speaks during announcement at Stillman College. (contributed)

Stillman will use Google’s grant to help offer free cybersecurity services to community organizations and small businesses in the mid-South, particularly minority-owned businesses in Alabama and Tennessee; to hire students from diverse backgrounds to work in the clinic through internships; to provide scholarships for clinic courses; and to mentor other HBCUs as they launch cyber clinics in their communities.

“These clinics have been designed to provide the next generation of professionals with the tools and resources they need to succeed in the ever-growing field of cybersecurity,” said Royal Hansen, Google’s vice president of Privacy, Safety, and Security Engineering. “We’re proud to lend a hand to help grow a strong security workforce responsible for strengthening and protecting our infrastructure for years to come.”

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