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Consumer Reports Launches Cybersecurity Initiative with $5 Million Grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies

CR will create new digital tools for consumers to protect themselves and their communities from cyber attacks

 CR initiative is latest effort backed by Craig Newmark’s “cyber civil defense” plan to mobilize Americans to improve their cybersecurity

Yonkers, N.Y. – Consumer Reports is launching a major initiative to empower consumers to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats with a $5 million grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

CR will conduct a nationwide effort to alert people to growing cyber threats such as phishing, ransomware, and malware attacks, building on its work to evaluate and improve data privacy and security. Cyber attacks on digital devices and online services can result in the theft of people’s most sensitive information, disrupt phone and computer networks, cause electricity blackouts, and allow malicious actors to take control of information systems. There is an urgent need to help consumers understand today’s cyber risks and how to choose among the complex tools and options available for personal cybersecurity.

Under this new initiative, the nonprofit consumer organization will scale up its product research and testing, investigative journalism, and advocacy to identify cyber dangers and advance solutions. Specifically, CR will:

  • Inform consumers about products and services that offer safety and security from cyber threats by conducting evaluations of tools such as antivirus software, password managers, and virtual private networks (VPNs)—and working to increase the transparency and trustworthiness of internet-connected devices through an experimental “nutrition label” to help consumers understand the data collection and security practices of their devices.
  • Empower consumers by providing simple, free, digital tools from CR to stay vigilant against cyber threats and improve their cyber hygiene, including the expansion of CR’s new Security Planner for personal cybersecurity.
  • Organize consumer campaigns to urge Americans to take the necessary actions to secure themselves, their families, and their neighbors, and press companies and government to raise the standards for cybersecurity.

This CR initiative is the latest in a series of cybersecurity efforts made possible by Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and a former CR board member. Newmark recently announced a sweeping “cyber civil defense” plan to mobilize people in the U.S. to improve their cybersecurity, pledging more than $50 million for organizations to build civic infrastructure, policy frameworks, and security tools.

Today’s announcement comes three years after CR launched the Digital Lab to uncover tech harms, create standards for evaluating the privacy and security of internet-connected products, and promote consumers’ digital rights, with Newmark’s help and vision.

Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, said, “Craig Newmark is a great champion of consumer power, and we’re thrilled to be a partner in this extraordinary effort to raise the bar for cybersecurity. Over the past several years, with Craig’s support, CR has expanded our product testing for digital security and privacy, and we’ve ramped up our advocacy for digital rights. Today, we know that consumers are increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats, and the tools to secure our data are often complicated, or they don’t even work. This new initiative will help us educate people so they can better protect themselves, and stand up to demand that industry and government do better.”

Newmark said, “Consumer Reports has a long and remarkable history of exposing hidden hazards in everyday products – from cigarettes and unsafe cars to smartphone apps that put our personal information in jeopardy.  I’m excited that now they’re going to put their expertise to work for cybersecurity, and help us shield our homes and communities from attacks. We all have a role to play, and it starts with shining a light on what’s at stake for our democracy, and bringing people together for the sake of our country’s safety.”

Newmark said this “cyber civil defense” effort was inspired by Americans at home during World War II who recognized the need to protect their communities, and did their part for the sake of national and global security.

CR joins other Newmark grantees in this effort, including the Global Cyber Alliance and the Ransomware Task Force at the Institute of Security and Technology. CR is a founding member of Nonprofit Cyber, a new global coalition of nonprofits that are collaborating on cybersecurity and working to increase action and awareness among consumers, businesses, and other stakeholders.

Ben Moskowitz, Director of CR’s Digital Lab, added, “Since Craig’s initial investment into the Digital Lab, we have been constantly innovating to protect and advance the digital rights of all consumers. This new initiative will help us continue our critical work on digital rights with a renewed focus on raising awareness and education around cybersecurity issues to create a more safe and secure internet.”

In addition to this grant, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Ford Foundation provide ongoing, critical support for CR’s digital rights efforts, including this cybersecurity initiative and other innovative work performed by the Digital Lab.

Consumer Reports has earned the trust of millions of people by providing science-based, independent guidance, and championing reforms to make the marketplace safer for all of us. Cybersecurity requires a scale of mobilization across government, industry, and consumers, and CR looks forward to playing its part to elevate this issue and find answers for a safer society.

Media Contacts:

Cyrus Rassool, cyrus.rassool@consumer.org

David Butler, david.butler@consumer.org