Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Security Strategy, Plan, Budget, RSAC

Craig Newmark pledges $50+ million for ‘Cyber Civil Defense’

Craig Newmark attends the 15th Annual Stand Up For Heroes at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on November 08, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Craig Newmark of craigslist fame on Monday promised a major investment in the cybersecurity community and public cyber education by targeting more than $50 million towards what he called a Cyber Civil Defense.

Newmark announced the news in a Tweet earlier today.

Craig Newmark Philanthropies (CNP) said the $50 million will support efforts to raise public awareness of threats and online security choices, in addition to the creation of online tools and digital infrastructure that can help secure the country’s networks. The effort will also include programming aimed at developing a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce capable of meeting the technical cybersecurity challenges ahead.

The Cyber Civil Defense will focus on basic cyber education and literacy for people in their homes and local businesses; help people launch careers in cybersecurity, regardless of background; and work closely with Big Tech to make sure these initiatives happen.

The biggest unsolved problem in cybersecurity has been how to protect those who cannot afford cybersecurity tools, said John Bambenek, principal threat hunter at Netenrich.

“For example, romance scams are a huge problem (and personally very devastating) and there isn’t anything for people to turn to for help,” Bambenek said. “If these funds are used to help the broader public, it’s a major step forward."

Jennifer Tisdale, CEO  at GRIMM, said society needs cybersecurity training, education, preparation tactics and encouragement for personal and professional cyber response plans for these regular people. Tisdale said for the business and critical infrastructure, it would be great to emulate and expand programs such as the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps (MiC3) that tests and trains cyber professionals for deployment in response to cyberattacks, similar to the model of the National Guard.

“Having this sort of program dedicated to specific industries – would be well-served by this type of investment if achieved with a coordinated effort,” Tisdale said.   

Dave Cundiff, vice president, member delivery at Cyvatar, said Craig Newmark is headed in the right direction, adding that the country sorely needs CNP’s focus on general cyber education, usability, and career opportunity.

“Education of the populous in an engaging and practical way will be sorely beneficial, as will access and the usability of tech,” Cundiff said. “For too long the cybersecurity industry has focused on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This has allowed large organizations to become extremely powerful and unfortunately, similar to our healthcare system, focused more on treatment, rather than prevention. More important is the focus on career opportunities overcoming racial, economic, and cultural differences. Cybersecurity benefits from diversity in thought as much if not more than almost any other industry.”

Chris Hauk, consumer privacy champion at Pixel Privacy, added that hopefully,  Newmark's efforts will pay off.

“In today's world, individuals, corporations, and governments find their information and security under what seems like continual attack,” Hauk said. “If the program can teach individuals and groups to better protect themselves, show them how to install antivirus and malware protection, and be smart online, we will all benefit.”

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