CIRI Dashboard used to help small businesses, train future workforce

Cybersecurity is a concern for all business, from multi-national corporations like Target to the mom-and-pop store down the street. That’s why the government developed and published the National Institute of Science and Technologies (NIST) Cyber Security Framework, a cyber risk management standard for companies to follow to ensure the safety of them and their customers online. Unfortunately, meeting the NIST CSF standard is a challenge for most small businesses.Ruth Swain

“More than 90% of credit card breaches in America are from small businesses,” said Ruth Swain Interim Director of the Small Business Development Center at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. “Once a small business is hacked and attacked up to 60% of them do not recover. We are working on demystifying cybersecurity across America, and frankly we’re behind.”

Swain and her colleagues at the Small Business Development Center are working to train small business owners on the process of becoming compliant with the national standards, and what steps they need to take to get there. One of their main training tools is the Cyber Secure Dashboard, developed by the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) at the University of Illinois. The tool provides a step-by-step plan to implement the NIST standards.

“There is not a shortage of information available about cybersecurity; there is an overwhelming wealth of information, but there are very few sources that demystify the NIST framework,” said Swain. “So when we found something that is easy for anyone to understand we were immediately eager to participate.”

In addition to using the Dashboard to train small business owners, the college also uses the technology to train cybersecurity interns as part of a National Science Foundation grant.  These interns and cybersecurity students are the next generation of cybersecurity workers. Mt. Hood was the first community college in Oregon to be a designated a Center of Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security. The designation was awarded in part because of their cybersecurity education curriculum, which includes five different programs from a degree in Cybersecurity and Networking to a certificate in Cybersecurity: Business Cyber Vulnerability Analysis. According to Swain, their offerings are part of a growing societal need.

“There is alarm increasingly at the local, state and federal level about ensuring cyber security safety for individuals and businesses across America,” said Swain “You’re going to see a growing trend of grants and education programs. The Cyber Secure Dashboard is on the forefront as well as being one of the founding education tools.”

While using the Dashboard for educational purposes wasn’t the original intended use of the tool, CIRI representatives are proud that their work is being used to help small businesses and prepare the next generation of the cybersecurity workforce.

“The idea that the Dashboard could be used as an educational tool in this manner is innovative on the part of Mt. Hood Community College,” said Andrea Whitesell, CIRI senior research program manager. “We now see this as a way to scale the tool nationally and we plan to implement a similar program to impact our nation’s cybersecurity workforce skills gap.”