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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

LSU Launches Louisiana Cybersecurity Clinic to Safeguard Small Businesses Against Cyberattacks

In recent months, cyberattacks have targeted prominent institutions such as the federal government, Louisiana's Office of Motor Vehicles, and multiple universities. These incidents highlight the vulnerability of businesses, particularly small enterprises without dedicated IT staff, to hacking threats. To address this issue, LSU (Louisiana State University) is launching the Louisiana Cybersecurity Clinic—a free service designed to assist small businesses in fortifying their defenses against cybercriminals.

The program is made possible through a groundbreaking $1.5 million grant from the National Security Agency (NSA), marking the first of its kind in the country. University leaders view the clinic as a prime example of how their cybersecurity program, identified as a top priority by President William F. Tate's administration, can deliver immediate and tangible benefits to the state.

President Tate expressed his satisfaction with the NSA grant, stating, "LSU researchers seek to translate research into applied solutions and technical support. This award from the NSA signals our faculty's ability to deliver on this aim. It recognizes LSU's growing leadership in cyber as we pursue our mission and Scholarship First Agenda to protect and secure Louisiana and the nation."

LSU is one of only 22 schools nationwide designated as an NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, and it is one of the 403 Centers of Academic Excellence designated by the NSA. While all 403 schools were eligible for the small business grant, LSU was chosen as the recipient of the inaugural award. Adam McCloskey, director of the Small Business Development Center at LSU, highlighted the significance of the NSA grant in safeguarding small businesses, which are frequently targeted by cyberattacks. Due to limited resources and the absence of robust infrastructure, these businesses often struggle to protect sensitive internal data, including personal and customer information.

Greg Trahan, LSU's Director of Economic Development, emphasized the interconnectedness between large and small businesses, explaining that secure smaller businesses contribute to the overall resilience and security posture of larger companies. He stated, "Some of our large businesses in Louisiana are critical infrastructure things like chemical, petrochemical, refineries, ports; those are supported by many small businesses. Any weakness in that entire ecosystem represents some potential threat, but by improving the security of the people that have the least resources, it elevates the overall security posture and overall resilience of all of our industries that are critical in the state economy."

McCloskey added, "Small businesses are one of the major targets for hackers because they don't know that they're a target and they don't know what to do to mitigate their risks." Recognizing the need for assistance, he emphasized the role of the Louisiana Cybersecurity Clinic (LCC) in mitigating these risks and offering guidance to small businesses.

The LCC will operate through three collaborative sub-clinics staffed by LSU students and faculty advisors. Initially, five students per sub-clinic will provide services starting in 2024, with plans to expand to 45 students. Organizers hope to have 75 students involved in the clinic by the third year.

Aisha Ali-Gombe, the LCC program director and associate professor of computer science and engineering, commended LSU's commitment to cybersecurity education and research excellence. She believes that the progress made by LSU in the field of cybersecurity over the past few years contributed to the NSA's decision to award the university with the cyber clinic grant.

Greg Trahan, who serves in an advisory role on cybersecurity efforts, shared his belief that the LCC could serve as a model for other universities. He expressed confidence in LSU's potential to become the most important cybersecurity school in the country, stating, "And by important, I mean other people look at us and say, 'my gosh, that's how you should do that,' with something like the cybersecurity clinic being an example."

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