RIT Cybersecurity Clinic entering second year of securing community organizations

Application process now open for new clients seeking pro bono cybersecurity services

ESL Global Cybersecurity Institute

The Cybersecurity Clinic gives students hands-on experience working with clients

The Cybersecurity Clinic at RIT's ESL Global Cybersecurity Institute had a highly impactful first year protecting organizations in the community from escalating cyber threats. In 2023, RIT became one of the first universities to establish a cybersecurity clinic with support from the Google Cybersecurity Clinics Fund, enabling the university to provide pro-bono services to under-resourced entities. The program is part of a partnership between Google and the  Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, which was founded in 2021 to share knowledge across members and help incubate new cybersecurity clinics. RIT was one of eight founding members, and there are 15 active clinics in the consortium today.

Rising Tide of Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks are increasing at an alarming rate, putting organizations of all sizes and sectors at risk. According to IBM's 2022 Cost of Data Breach Report, the average data breach costs companies $4.35 million. For smaller organizations, a single cyber incident could be financially devastating.

The cyber threat is compounded by the proliferation of remote work, cloud migration, and criminal groups developing more sophisticated attack methods. The global annual cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $8 trillion by 2023, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

Defending Community Organizations

Since opening in 2023, the clinic has assisted over 20 non-profit and community organizations with cybersecurity assessments, penetration testing, and enhancing security postures. Clients included the Downtown Lower Manhattan Business Improvement District, Literacy New York, CDS Life Transitions, the Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network, and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Cybersecurity is such a critical part of keeping our business running,” said Brian O’Sullivan, President of Frontier Abstract and Research.  “The fact that we are regulated by the Department of Financial Services adds another level of compliance. [The Clinic team’s] findings and feedback help us assess our risk and prioritize our resources.”

Hands-On Learning for Students

Approximately 76 RIT students gained invaluable real-world experience this year by working on the cybersecurity projects. Under faculty supervision, they conducted security audits, risk analyses, system hardening, and more using industry best practices.

"The cybersecurity clinic gives our students practical skills that are in high demand," said Ersin Uzun, Executive Director of the ESL Global Cybersecurity Institute (ESL GCI). "They emerge as well-rounded cybersecurity professionals prepared for dynamic careers while also helping diversify the cybersecurity workforce.”

Welcoming New Community Organizations for Free Cybersecurity Services

Building on this successful model, the RIT Cybersecurity Clinic plans to expand its community impact and student opportunities in the coming year. The clinic is now opening its application process to take on new client organizations in need of cybersecurity assistance. Non-profits, small businesses, municipal entities and other under-resourced organizations in the greater Rochester area are encouraged to Apply Here for the clinic's pro-bono services.

"We want to broaden our reach to help as many organizations as possible secure their systems and data," said Sarah Yarger, Project and Operations Manager for the ESL GCI. "Our students are eager to take on more real-world projects to hone their skills before entering the cybersecurity workforce."

Interested organizations can apply on the Clinic's website and detail their cybersecurity needs. Accepted clients will be matched with a team of students and faculty who will conduct cybersecurity assessments, testing, and develop remediation plans tailored to their requirements.

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