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$1M Grant From Google to Fund San Diego Cyber ‘Clinic’

CYBERSECURITY: CCOE, Trio of Universities, Lab to Aid Business

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – Three universities joined by a San Diego nonprofit have scored a $1 million grant from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org.

With the funds, the organizations will work to improve the cyber defenses of local businesses and other organizations – particularly organizations with access to few resources.

The grant recipients will set up a cyber clinic, modeled on clinics run by medical schools and law schools. In this case, the San Diego clinic will provide digital security services to under-resourced organizations. The service will be free.

The nonprofit Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE) is the lead organization on the grant. It will work with California State University San Marcos, National University and San Diego State University as well as the city-operated and federally funded San Diego Regional Cyber Lab.

The effort was announced on Tuesday (June 4). Leaders plan to begin operations in the fall.

In addition to money, Google will provide volunteer, software and in-kind support.

Google is part of Silicon Valley-based Alphabet Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG).

Cyber Center of Excellence is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Lisa Easterly
President & CEO
CCOE

“The San Diego Cyber Clinic, led by CCOE, CSUSM, National University and SDSU, is honored to be a recipient of the Google Cybersecurity Clinics Fund,” said Lisa Easterly, president and CEO of CCOE. “Our clinic will arm students with hands-on training and cyber career pathways, while supporting small businesses and under-resourced organizations to help grow an inclusive cyber workforce and create a more secure digital community for all.”

Over the six-year duration of the grant, the clinic hopes to host 1,000 students and tend to the needs of 260 companies and organizations, Easterly said. “We’re looking for this to become a community asset,” she said.

“We see this as an opportunity to seed the clinic in our region,” Easterly added, noting that leaders want to grow the effort. The project may take on additional educational partners and is seeking support from local businesses. More information is available at sdccoe.org/cyber-clinic/

Effort Is Nationwide; an Educational Win-Win

As part of a larger, $25 million effort, Google is funding clinics all over the United States, mostly with universities, which make up the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics. San Diego’s clinic is unique, Easterly said, in that it is headed by a nonprofit and takes in three universities, not one.

College students are central figures in the clinic model. The San Diego Cyber Clinic will give CSUSM, National University and SDSU students an opportunity to build their cybersecurity and AI skills through real-world projects.

The effort works to correct a common employer concern: that recent college graduates are strong in book learning but weak in real-world experience.

At the same time, the effort will help to protect vulnerable organizations and critical infrastructure – including small businesses, hospitals, schools and energy grids – from cyberattacks.

Local leaders are standing up the clinic during a time when hackers, including those supported by nation states, remain a threat to organizations big and small.

Technology Is Also Changing

“The world is in a moment where emerging technologies, like AI, are creating both new opportunities and threats in the world of cybersecurity,” said Heather Adkins, vice president of security engineering at Google. “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. The 15 clinics that we’re helping to establish serve a wide variety of students across all corners of the U.S. and we’re excited to see the impact they’ll have in their local communities.”

Heather Adkins
VP of Security Engineering
Google

One of the goals of the clinic, Easterly said, is to make the cybersecurity workforce more inclusive. Like the technology workforce, the cybersecurity workforce is mostly white and male. Women, minorities and neurodiverse individuals make up an estimated 25%.

The issue is not just one of perceptions and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), Easterly said. It is a bona fide security issue. A workforce that looks the same will think the same and approach problems in the same manner. A workforce that thinks differently will be better able to stand up against hackers.

The Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics has set a goal to establish a cybersecurity clinic in every U.S. state by 2030, according to Ann Cleaveland, co-founder and co-chair of the consortium and executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity.

San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence
FOUNDED: 2014
PRESIDENT & CEO: Lisa Easterly
HEADQUARTERS: Little Italy
BUSINESS: A nonprofit mobilizing businesses, academia and government to grow the regional cyber economy and create a more secure digital community for all.
REVENUE: $476,000 (2023)
EMPLOYEES: Two
WEBSITE: sdccoe.org
CONTACT: info@sdccoe.org
NOTABLE: The center grew out of a study on the industry conducted by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

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