Craig Newmark Philanthropies (CNP), the grantmaking organization launched by the founder of craigslist, has announced a three-year, $1.725M commitment to support the newly established Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, a network of organizations working to expand cybersecurity clinics at colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world. Similar to clinics in schools of law and medicine, cybersecurity clinics provide students with hands-on experience as they work to strengthen the digital defenses of nonprofits, hospitals, municipalities, small businesses, small critical infrastructure providers and other under-resourced organizations.
The funding builds on more than half a million dollars gifted by CNP in 2020 and 2021 to incubate the clinic model; the combined gift of over $2M to UC Berkeley represents a core element in Newmark’s $50M pledge to support cyber civil defense.
“University-based clinics provide critical cybersecurity assistance in their communities, and create a pipeline of diverse talent to work on the frontlines of cyber civil defense in every state,” Newmark said. “Cyber civil defense depends on efforts across federal, state and local levels, and cybersecurity clinics are a crucial component to scale a national effort.”
“We’re incredibly proud to be part of Craig’s groundbreaking philanthropic commitment to cyber civil defense,” said Ann Cleaveland, Executive Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, which hosts the Consortium. “The Consortium is a key component of a National Cyber Workforce and Education agenda, which has risen all the way to the White House. The vision of the Consortium is to advance cybersecurity education for public good, and for university, college and community-college based clinics to be available in all 50 states.”
Newmark provided early seed funding to the University of California, Berkeley’s Citizen Clinic, a trailblazing public interest digital security clinic that trains and deploys student teams to help nonprofits, journalists, human rights defenders and social justice activists defend themselves against digital threats. Since its founding in 2018, Citizen Clinic has trained over 100 students from diverse disciplines to strengthen the cyberdefenses of 14 nonprofit clients, including women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and indigenous rights organizations.
In 2021, Citizen Clinic’s leaders teamed up with MIT and other founding members to launch the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, an international network of institutions that serves as a forum for clinicians, trainers and advocates to network and share knowledge, expand the reach of cybersecurity clinics, and lower the barriers for other institutions of higher education to successfully establish their own clinics.
In addition to UC Berkeley and MIT, founding members of the Consortium include the Indiana University Cybersecurity Clinic; University of Alabama Cybersecurity Clinic; University of Georgia CyberArch; Global Cyber Alliance; Rochester Institute of Technology; and the R Street Institute. Consortium membership has since grown to include participants from three countries, and nine states, as well as the District of Columbia.
Each consortium-affiliated cybersecurity clinic operates independently, and focuses on unique audiences and service specialties. Every clinic has one or more faculty directors training students to provide digital security services, such as vulnerability and risk assessments, cybersecurity policy templates, incident response plans, ransomware training, NIST and CMMC certifications, and more.
“In Fortune magazine’s first-ever ranking of online master’s degree programs in cybersecurity, Berkeley was named No. 1,” says Chancellor Carol T. Christ. “With Craig’s meaningful investment, we can do even more to prepare diverse, talented students at Berkeley and elsewhere to help vulnerable organizations become more resilient to cyberattacks. His support ensures we will continue to lead national and international efforts to make the digital landscape a safer, more humane place.”
With funding from CNP, the Consortium will establish a “gold standard” clearinghouse for the development and dissemination of tools, knowledge, and resources for cybersecurity clinics and their clients. The funding will enable the Consortium to bring on its first Director, convene members to support peer learning, expand the membership and number of clients served, and grow the Consortium’s public Cybersecurity Clinic Education Center.
“Our ambition is to dramatically grow the number of universities and students engaged in clinics, with attention to women and student bodies under-represented in cybersecurity, as well as to incubate new cybersecurity clinics through mentorship and direct funding,” Cleaveland said. “We are grateful to early funders of this work, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Microsoft, the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), and the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative.”