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UGA CyberArch helps improve cybersecurity in Georgia communities with $500K Google grant

Iyanna Yapo, a student majoring in computer science, serves as a team leader for UGA CyberArch. (Photo by Shannah Montgomery)

By Roy Parry/UGAToday

The University of Georgia works to enhance the cybersecurity infrastructure in communities across the state through its CyberArch program. Now UGA is poised to expand CyberArch, train and empower more students interested in cybersecurity careers and increase its cybersecurity impact across the state Georgia thanks to funding from Google.

This October, UGA CyberArch was awarded a $500,000 grant from Google’s philanthropy organization, Google.org, to expand its efforts in cybersecurity.

UGA CyberArch, facilitated by the UGA Institute of Government, works with organizational partners in K-12 school districts, local governments and rural hospitals, and is expanding into the small business community through a collaboration with the UGA Small Business Development Center, to help build a broader awareness about cybersecurity threats and strengthen their cyber preparation and response actions.

Mark Lupo, program coordinator for UGA CyberArch, and students meet at a client site to review needs and develop a plan. (Photo by Shannah Montgomery)

Student interns, working in teams of four, conduct a cybersecurity risk review through a series of assessment questions, then make a site visit before creating a final report that includes recommendations to enhance the organization’s cybersecurity posture.

“Through CyberArch, UGA will help communities and businesses across Georgia protect themselves against cyberattacks while providing our students with hands-on experience in this critical field,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “We are grateful to Google.org for its support of this important initiative.”

UGA CyberArch grew from eight student interns in spring 2022 to 24 interns in fall 2022, with additional increases anticipated for fall 2023 and spring 2024. Program coordinator Mark Lupo plans to use the funding to increase the number of internships, which will train more UGA students and ultimately help more organizations across Georgia. UGA CyberArch includes students from the College of Engineering, School of Computing, the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy, and the Terry College of Business.

“The University of Georgia is raising the cybersecurity readiness of our partner organizations across the state through the work of CyberArch. This generous financial commitment from Google will help us deliver even more impact in the cybersecurity arena,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach.

Through CyberArch, UGA also delivers economic impact. The average cost of a cyberattack to small- and medium-sized businesses was $383,365 in 2018, according to the Ponemon Institute. UGA CyberArch is free for participating organizations, providing a total value of approximately $60,000 to $180,000 from six teams working over a semester.

“We’re excited to receive this support from Google and combine its resources with our expertise and resources at UGA. This funding gives us a stronger foothold as a formalized program,” said Lupo. “We see the funding as a way to increase our ability to reach more students and to be able to serve more communities.”

This summer, Google.org made a $20 million commitment to help fund cybersecurity workforce efforts in collaboration with the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics. The group is a national and international network of academic institutions and organizations that collaborate to expand cybersecurity as a public service and UGA is a founding member.

The funding from Google will support the expansion of existing cybersecurity clinics selected for the grant funding, like UGA CyberArch, and the launch of new clinics at other higher education institutions across the U.S.

“There is a global awareness that this ability to get students involved in cybersecurity and then in turn connect them with the community professionals who are already in that space and serve communities continues to gain traction,” said Lupo.

Google’s pledge aims to help the U.S. cybersecurity industry tackle its labor shortage and the rising number of cyberattacks. Cyberattacks increased 38% globally in 2022, and have cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars over the past five years. Despite the need for more cybersecurity professionals, there are more than 550,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S.

As fourth-year students, UGA CyberArch student interns Hannah Brown and Sakeef Hassan are well on their way to entering the cybersecurity workforce. They are thrilled that more is being done to strengthen those numbers.

“It’s a great opportunity to be at the front of this cybersecurity movement on college campuses and be one of the first ones to experience it while working for one of the first cyber clinics here at UGA,” said Hassan, a computer science major from Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Brown and Hassan traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to represent UGA when Google brought in students from the consortium clinics to announce its $20 million commitment. In talking with other students, they learned that UGA CyberArch is creating unmatched opportunities for UGA students.

“UGA CyberArch provides an internship where you’re getting the work experience,” said Brown, a management information systems major from Monroe, Georgia. “Our program is unique in the sense that we’re on a team of four and as a team leader, I’m responsible for doing most of the communication with our partner organization. Once we’ve solidified the relationship with the organization, we’ve built a level of trust with them.

“It’s nice to be able to step out of your college education space and go into a community to help people and provide the services they really need and make an impact.”

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