Little Rock-based Forge Institute received Tuesday (Aug. 23) a $999,650 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist small businesses in combatting cybersecurity threats.
The funding will enable Forge Institute to expand its services from the Arkansas Cyber Defense Center (ACDC) to assist Arkansas small businesses better combat cybersecurity threats, expand training for cybersecurity services, and address other operational cybersecurity challenges.
ACDC will also conduct 260 assessments for at least 130 small businesses during the course of the first year. Joint awareness campaigns and training will be conducted by Forge Institute in collaboration with the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) and academic members of the Consortium for Cyber Innovation (CCI).
The pilot is expected to benefit Arkansas small businesses, many of which are vendors to critical infrastructure and therefore targets of organized crime and nation-state adversaries. Forge Institute is a partner with the US Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and regularly leverages cyber threat information to protect its partners.
“Our team is excited to receive support from the SBA, which will allow us to further develop capabilities in the Arkansas Cyber Defense Center (ACDC) to engage, train and assess cybersecurity risks for Arkansas’ small businesses. Developing cyber resiliency within our small business community is vital to supporting and growing the economic lifeblood of our state,” said Scott A. Anderson, Executive Director, Forge Institute
“I am so excited that Forge Institute, which has a long history of training beginners and professionals about cybersecurity, has received a grant to help our small businesses learn cyber techniques to keep them safe from malicious online attackers. Soon, Arkansas small businesses will be able to get direct help for compromised systems for free from the ACDC. SBA looks forward to more states being able to provide this kind of service in the near future through more SBA cybersecurity pilot program initiatives,” said Ted James, Region 6 South Central Administrator of the SBA.
A key component of the ACDC is to provide work-based learning experiences for Arkansas students. Up to eight interns will be hired for a paid internship from the University of Arkansas, UA Little Rock and UA Pine Bluff.
“The UA Little Rock Cybersecurity Lab is excited to continue our years’ long collaboration with Forge Institute and support the ACDC by providing students for paid internships to assist in the delivery of cybersecurity awareness training and outreach services. As a research partner with the Consortium for Cyber Innovation (CCI), it’s exciting to see opportunities for our students to immediately apply their knowledge for the benefit of Arkansas. This collaboration puts our students on the frontlines in cybersecurity to develop innovations that will improve cybersecurity for small businesses,” said Philip Huff, PhD, Assistant Professor Cybersecurity, UA Little Rock.
“Cybersecurity is increasingly critical for small businesses and startups as they face rising challenges and cyber risks that could disrupt their operations. As we seek to build a stronger and more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, we must innovate and provide resources to meet the growing, evolving needs of our diverse small businesses. With this new funding opportunity, the SBA is leveraging the strengths across our state governments, territories, and tribal governments to provide services to help small businesses get cyber ready and, in the process, fortify our nation’s supply chains,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.
“Cybersecurity preparedness is a critical issue for our small businesses. Each attack can cost a small businesses thousands in downtime, lost business opportunities and the professional services small businesses hire to mitigate the security breach,’ states Edward Haddock, SBA Arkansas District Director. “With this funding Forge Institute and the Arkansas Cyber Defense Center will help lead the way and ensure our small businesses have the tools, training and support to help make cyber security a top priority to respond to this constantly and rapidly evolving threat.”