Citizen Clinic

Citizen Clinic Logo

Digital Security for Civil Society

Civil society organizations, including journalists, human rights defenders, and social justice activists, are critical drivers of social change. Their work is essential for healthy democracies, human rights, and justice to thrive.

But as technology becomes more important to their operations, these organizations face growing threats, like cyberattacks, targeted surveillance, online harassment, and the spread of disinformation.

Many lack the resources to secure their digital operations. Citizen Clinic is empowering civil society organizations to use technology to fulfill their missions, defend against digital threats, and build digital capabilities so they can drive social change.

Who We Are

Citizen Clinic is a trailblazing multidisciplinary, public-interest digital security clinic within the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. Through a model similar to university clinics in law and medicine, we train teams of students to help civil society organizations build the capabilities they need to proactively defend themselves against malicious governments, powerful corporations, hate groups, and extremists.

We’ve trained 185 students since 2018, drawn from a dozen academic specialties at UC Berkeley, and have served 25 non-profit clients on 4 continents ranging from women’s reproductive rights organizations to LGBTQ and international indigenous rights groups. Nearly half of Citizen Clinic alumni are women.

We are proud to be a founding member of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, an international network of university-based cybersecurity clinicians, trainers, and advocates committed to sharing best practices, expanding the reach and visibility of cybersecurity clinics, and lowering the barriers for other institutions of higher education to successfully establish their own clinics. Download a one-page overview to learn more about the Consortium’s priorities and opportunities for support.

What We Do

Citizen Clinic is enabling civil society organizations to use technology to fulfill their missions. We are training the next generation of digital security leaders. And we are forging a new community around public-interest technology.

Defend Civil Society

  • We help civil society organizations proactively defend themselves against digital threats, enabling them to focus on fulfilling their missions and driving social change.
  • We offer custom, long-term client engagements to build the digital capacity of civil society organizations.
  • We directly consult with civil society groups and provide them with the tools and knowledge to defend themselves against politically motivated bad actors and digital threats.

Train Digital Security Leaders

  • We are building and training the next generation of digital security leaders.
  • We teach students through a hands-on approach, whereby they strengthen and support organizations to implement digital safety practices using a holistic and tailored approach.
  • By engaging students from varying backgrounds and disciplines, we encourage a diverse group to pursue careers in public-interest technology and expand the pool of potential participants in the cybersecurity workforce.
  • Citizen Clinic shows students that they don’t have to choose between a career in tech or a career in the public interest. They can do both.

Grow the Public-Interest Technology Community

  • We are leaders in building a new public-interest technology community where digital security is part of the bedrock of civil society.
  • We grow our impact by sharing our institutional knowledge and serving as a model and collaborative resource for other universities that want to establish similar clinics.

Citizen Clinic Cybersecurity Education Center

The Citizen Clinic Cybersecurity Education Center is designed to share the Clinic’s pioneering cybersecurity resources for civil society organizations, and to help other academic institutions that may be interested in establishing their own cybersecurity clinics. The site includes past and current Citizen Clinic curricula, reading lists, and syllabi, as well as a link to our Baseline Organizational Security Guide.

“The Citizen Clinic was absolutely a unique and rewarding experience for me. It allowed me to immediately put what I learned in cybersecurity into practice, and was the fastest way to fully understand how the course material really plays out in organizations who are lacking the cybersecurity knowledge or resources to protect themselves. The Clinic is made up of a very academically and professionally diverse group of students — we were able to use our respective areas of expertise while stregnthening our existing knowledge and experience and gaining new familiarity in cybersecurity.”

Zaina Siyed, Citizen Clinic alumna participant, UCB Interdisciplinary Studies 2023

Upcoming Events

Citizen Clinic alumna Bo Tefu

“Our team created a cybersecurity playbook for a nonprofit law firm that advocates for human and environmental rights in developing countries. Working with incredible thought leaders in the tech, law, and human rights space fueled my passion for social impact by eradicating the digital divide through safe cybersecurity practices and access to information.”

Boikanyo Tefu, Citizen Clinic alumna participant, UCB Master of Journalism 2020, Multimedia Journalist and Content Manager at the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Human Rights Center
Citizen Clinic alumna Lily Lin

“My goal is to improve information technologies that support communities and civil society. The I School and Citizen Clinic have given me the skills and confidence to be a better advocate for users and socially conscious products. I’m excited to bring this knowledge to my new role as a Program Manager at Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research group.”

Lily Lin, Citizen Clinic alumna participant, UCB Masters of Information Management 2019

Featured Publications

Research and Media

Cybersecurity clinic at UC Berkeley helps nonprofits protect themselves online

Berkeley cyber experts train next generation of digital defenders

Higher Ed’s Growing Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics

Craig Newmark gives UC Berkeley $2 million for university cybersecurity clinics

CHAINOTO24 on Shutterstock
Cybersecurity Clinics Create Online Defense for the Public Good

Maclaurin Building, MIT
How to Start a Cybersecurity Clinic

5 Questions with UC Berkeley Cybersecurity

PIT-UN Partnerships: MIT and UC Berkeley’s National Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics

Chronicle of Philanthropy Spotlights Citizen Clinic

The Future of Public Interest Cybersecurity Clinics

Surviving Election Season
Surviving Election Season

UC Berkeley Students Support Migrant, Refugee Organizations with Cybersecurity Self-Defense

Improving Cyber-Oriented Education, One Cyber Clinic at a Time

New Partnership Equips Journalism Students Covering Risky Investigations with Cybersecurity Safety Skills

The Edge Episode 3: I Know Where You Live
The Edge Podcast Episode 3: I Know Where You Live

Understanding the right technical assistance model for your organization
Understanding the right technical assistance model for your organization

Citizen Clinic Seminar: Indigenous-led Security and Digital Safety
Citizen Clinic Seminar: Indigenous-led Security and Digital Safety