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Free Cyber ​​Clinic Helps Local Small Businesses Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks

Although cyberattacks and ransomware against large enterprises make the evening headlines, in reality more than 70% of cyberattacks target small businesses.

Yet small businesses are less likely to protect themselves against attacks or have a plan in place to respond to them. The cost of hiring cybersecurity staff or an outside consultant may seem out of their reach.

Christian Tenorio knows this well. His family opened red ricean authentic chamorro restaurant located on avenue de l’Est, in 2014 after several years of catering for birthdays, weddings, etc.

Christian Tenorio, owner of the Red Rice restaurant, turned to UNLV’s free cyber clinic for help preventing cyberattacks in his small business. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV)

“Along with all the other concerns you have as a business owner — such as inventory, staff, and your supply chain — cybersecurity is the last thing you want to worry about,” Tenorio says. “And, as a small business owner, you may not think you can afford it.”

Luckily, in addition to being a co-owner of Red Rice, Tenorio is a UNLV alumnus, having earned a degree in entrepreneurship from Lee Business School. This connection and a conversation with another student made him aware of Free UNLV cyberclinic.

The new clinic offers on-site security audits, creation of security policies, development of business continuity plans, configuration of security devices and software, and cost analysis for advanced services.

“The initial assessment made me aware of the potential risks associated with our point-of-sale (POS) system, the need to have built-in redundancies and the importance of creating systems to prevent possible cyberattacks. in the future,” says Tenorio. “We have tweaked some things and are now doing a more in-depth assessment.”

Meeting labor needs

The clinic’s benefits go far beyond helping small businesses like Tenorio’s. It’s part of UNLV’s efforts to ensure students are ready for work, says Yoohwan Kim, a computer science professor and clinic director.

“There is a huge need for cybersecurity professionals in the state and nationally.” But employers need candidates with strong academic credentials and some experience in applying that knowledge.

“We created the Free Cyber ​​Clinic to help small businesses mitigate cybersecurity risks and at the same time provide, not just training, but hands-on experience for our students,” he says.

Students who volunteer with the Free Cyber ​​Clinic receive CompTIASecurity+ training and certification. The initial team of volunteers was assembled last fall and over the past year has created operating procedures, training programs and ethics policies, and has begun working directly with small businesses .

“When we speak to potential new student volunteers, we tell them what the clinic experience will bring them – such as the opportunity to gain certification and learn technical and soft skills,” says graduate student Mehdi Abid. in cybersecurity and vice-president of the free cyberclinic. “But we’ve found that as students start working with clients, the benefits to themselves really take a back seat. After understanding the issues and working personally with a few clients, the students are especially interested in helping small businesses.

This personal connection helps build trust with their customers, which is extremely important because companies share a lot of sensitive information. “It’s very important for us to be transparent and discuss with customers who will have access to the information as we analyze their assets and identify anything that could be compromised,” Abid says.

The fact that UNLV is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber ​​Defense (CAE-CD) designated by the National Security Agency reinforces the credentials of the Free Cyber ​​Clinic and its student volunteers. “The Free Cyber ​​Clinic will be an essential part of our CAE-CD program, and we hope to expand it to the entire academic cybersecurity community,” notes Juyeon Jo, program director and professor of computer science. .

Small Business Development Center

The Free Cyber ​​Clinic partners with UNLV’s Nevada Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to identify clients who could best utilize their services.

Albert Delgado, Nevada SBDC Project Manager, said, “Partnering with the College of Engineering’s Free Cyber ​​Clinic is a win for everyone: we have the ability to offer an additional service, our customers have the ability to better protect their businesses and students are gaining real-world experience.

In addition to his volunteering at the Free Cyberclinic, Abid is an intern at the SBDC, which has given him a better understanding of the cybersecurity needs of small businesses. This fall, the Free Online Clinic team is conducting a survey of SBDC customers to further identify businesses in need of support and narrow down the most needed support.

“It’s not just about 1s and 0s anymore,” says Abid. “We want to do our best for our customers. Our goal is to build community, level the playing field, and have no one,
especially small businesses, feel in a weak position.


Nevada Small Business Development Center

The Nevada SBDC at UNLV has a team of experienced business advisors ready to help entrepreneurs. As a partner of the US Small Business Administration, the office provides services in a variety of areas, such as business planning, marketing, finance and more to help small businesses succeed.