Daily News

Bay Path, Local Businesses Team with Paragus to Give Students Cybersecurity Experience

HADLEY — Last spring, Bay Path University and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts teamed with Paragus IT to offer state-subsidized, low-cost audits to aid in cybersecurity efforts for local businesses. A $250,000 grant from the Commonwealth gives Bay Path students an opportunity to gain on-the-job experience helping small businesses protect their data and secure their networks. The first semester of the program was a success, and organizers are now recruiting businesses for the next round.

As the first women’s college in the country to offer a master’s-degree program in cybersecurity management, Bay Path is on the leading edge of a rapidly growing field. Cybersecurity experts are in high demand at major companies around the world, and programs such as this go a long way toward preparing students to be competitive in a thriving job market.

Bay Path student Lauren Mendoza was a participant in the program and got a taste of what it’s really like to be out in the field. “People doing the hiring today want to see that you have experience as well as education,” she said. “Over the course of this program, we’ve not only become more knowledgeable about cybersecurity, but also gained confidence in real-life work situations such as on-site client interaction and the ability to prioritize and tackle each client’s unique needs.”

Julia Miller, student team leader, added that “it’s personally been helpful to put what I’m learning in my online classes into real-life situations. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take part in the program. It’s a win-win for students and the local business community.”

A cybersecurity expert at Paragus helps supervise 30 students as they conduct a series of security audits for 45 small-business clients. The students work with state-of-the-art software and help businesses understand cybersecurity risks and how to prevent and defend themselves against future attacks.

Westfield-based manufacturer Peerless Precision was one of the first businesses to take part in the program. “Working with Paragus IT and Bay Path was extremely beneficial,” said Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision. “It opened our eyes to where we stand and gave us a clear path forward on how to better protect both our sensitive customer data and our business as a whole. The process went very smoothly and did not interrupt our daily operations.”

The Markens Group, based in Springfield, also took part in the program. “As an association management company, our systems must meet the highest standards for data security, for internal use as well as for our clients,” said Lou Kornet, chief operating officer of the Markens Group. “This independent assessment provided us with assurances in our current practices as well as worthwhile recommendations on best practices. Given the current environment, this is a program small to medium-sized businesses need to take advantage of.”

Paragus CEO Delcie Bean said he is “very excited to team up with the Bay Path and the Commonwealth on this important issue. These days, many analysts believe that cyberattacks represent the single greatest external threat to small-business owners. This opportunity provided by the Commonwealth allows students to get experience in the field, and small businesses only pay $500 for a service that normally costs thousands of dollars.”

Local businesses interested in taking part in the program should visit www.paragusit.com/cyber for more information.