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WVSU Working With Google to Expand Cybersecurity Program | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


(TNS) — West Virginia State University is taking a step forward in cybersecurity education and innovation with the launch of its Cybersecurity Innovation Center and the establishment of a new Cybersecurity Clinic.

The university recently received a $1 million grant from Google.org to expand the school’s cybersecurity and establish the clinic.

This initiative is part of a larger $25 million collaboration with the national Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, aiming to address the growing need for cybersecurity professionals and to protect critical infrastructure.


Google.org is the charitable arm of Google, with major initiatives including:

  • Funding organizations promoting racial equality
  • Improving access to education and digital skills
  • Supporting people with disabilities
  • Responding to crises like natural disasters and health epidemics
  • Exploring renewable energy sources

EMERGING THREATS

Ali Al-Sinayyid, director of the WVSU Cybersecurity Center, elaborated on the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.“Right now in the United States, we are under attack from different foreign countries targeting critical infrastructure such as health, water treatment plants, and power systems. The FBI director has publicly announced that the U.S. public infrastructure is under attack, with a frightening ratio of 50 attackers to one defender,” Al-Sinayyid said.

The grant from Google.org is not just a financial boost but a strategic investment in the future of cybersecurity, Al-Sinayyid said. The funding will support the WVSU Cybersecurity Clinic, which will provide hands-on training to students while offering free digital security services to under-resourced organizations. This dual approach ensures that students gain practical experience and that the community benefits from enhanced cybersecurity.

“We are extremely thankful to Google.org for this investment in West Virginia State University that will allow us to continue to grow our cutting-edge cybersecurity program,” said WVSU President Ericke Cage. “Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing fields in today’s economy, and we are committed to providing our students with the tools and training they need to meet the demands of the job market.”

Al-Sinayyid emphasized the strategic allocation of the grant.

“The way that I wrote the grant is to dedicate most of the money to scholarships and internships. Because we want to recruit more students, we are willing to pay their tuition at WVSU,” he said.

This approach aims to attract more talent into the cybersecurity field, addressing the significant workforce gap. Currently, there are nearly 450,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., with demand projected to grow by 32 percent by 2033.

EXPANDING RESPONSE

The Cybersecurity Innovation Center at WVSU, supported by a $764,792 grant from the Kanawha County Commission and $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education, features a state-of-the-art learning laboratory. This facility provides immersive, hands-on experiences for students, allowing them to practice defending critical public infrastructure.

Cage highlighted the significance of this new facility during its grand opening in 2023.

“This center will help meet the needs of the state and region’s workforce by providing a highly trained cybersecurity workforce to meet the job market demands for this rapidly growing field,” he said.

In addition to the educational benefits, the CIC and Cybersecurity Clinic will play a crucial role in community outreach. They will offer cybersecurity services and awareness programs to local businesses, nonprofits and other organizations.

“We’re going to provide assessment and evaluation to the public sector, including small businesses and nonprofit organizations,” Al-Sinayyid said. “It’s a win-win. I’m going to teach my students what they need to do to perform professional evaluations of cybersecurity, and they’re going to get hands-on experience while the community gets free services.”

AI AND THE CYBER THREAT

This initiative comes at a critical time when cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated with the entrenchment of artificial intelligence.

“The hacker, instead of personally conducting attacks on different sectors, can now write a program with the help of AI and target multiple critical infrastructure sectors simultaneously,” Al-Sinayyid said.

Recognizing this, Google aims to enhance the quality of the workforce by providing trained professionals with hands-on experience in cybersecurity.

Heather Adkins, vice president of security engineering at Google, underscored the importance of this investment.

“It’s essential that we invest in growing a strong, diverse, and widespread cybersecurity workforce to help protect everyone — from critical infrastructure to small businesses and schools,” she said when WVSU’s $1 million grant was announced last week.

The WVSU Cybersecurity Clinic is one of 15 new clinics launched nationwide in 2024 through Google and the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics. This marks a significant milestone in establishing a nationwide network of cybersecurity clinics, with a goal of having one in every U.S. state by 2030.

Ann Cleaveland, co-founder and co-chair of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, praised the initiative.

“Google’s transformative investment is catalyzing cybersecurity for the public good,” she said in the announcement.

©2024 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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