ConnectWise partners saving the world: Lawrence Cruciana, Corporate Information Technologies

| By: Craig Fulton

Our partners aren’t just working to better their businesses—they are working to better the world! ConnectWise is proud to continue our Partners Saving the World series by showcasing Lawrence Cruciana of Corporate Information Technologies (CIT).

About Corporate Information Technologies and Lawrence Cruciana

CIT was founded with the ideal of providing a better way to approach IT. As the industry has evolved, so has CIT—but they never diverged from their founding core principles and have thrived under company President Lawrence Cruciana. Through an experienced team dedicated to security-focused partnership, CIT is proud to offer IT Operational support around the clock, spanning across seven countries and 24 states.

Lawrence doesn’t just lead his team at CIT to success. He established a partnership with McClintock Partners in Education (McPie), a public-private partnership aimed at helping students who are suffering from poverty and homelessness, and founded the life-changing Computer Building Club at McClintock Middle School.

How Lawrence is contributing to a better world

CIT became involved with McPie in 2008 under Lawrence’s leadership when he founded the club that taught the basics of computer hardware, assembly, and operation to students. This club introduced the concepts of the CompTIA A+ certification to middle school students while also allowing them to build and take home a computer. For many, this computer was the first in their household. It enabled them to do schoolwork as well as experiment and explore in ways previously unattainable.

Creating a brighter future for youth in need

McClintock’s Computer Building Club has taught the basics of computer hardware and system assembly to hundreds of kids over the past 11 years. Most of these kids came from families living at or below the poverty level. The vast majority of these kids had never even met anyone working in science, engineering, or technology and had no opportunity for mentorship in those areas.

For most of the students in this club, the computer that they were given the opportunity to build was the first computer in their household. It allowed them to take pride in something that they did and contribute to their families. Since its founding, the club has been modeled and duplicated in over 30 other districts nationally.

As Lawrence saw the needs of the industry and society changing, he and his team at McPie developed another program called CyberSpy. Lawrence says that there's no long-term benefit to simply teaching how to exploit software vulnerabilities in today’s current state of technology. So, “The kids are taught to hack. Like really hack. Not a watered-down version of paint-by-numbers hacking. They learn how computer networks work, what servers/clients/clouds are, the basics of authentication and digital trust, and many information-centric concepts,” Lawrence explains.

The program uses real-world attacks to teach individual and collective concepts, and then reproduces them. Some of these attacks come from popular or technical media, and some come from CIT’s experience in extensive cybersecurity and Incident Response practice.

Lawrence says, “The point here is that the attacks are real and the kids learn (a) how the attack was pulled off, (b)what could have been done better to prevent it, (c) the impact of the attack to the organization/victim, and (d) who was ultimately hurt by the attack. Then they replicate the same methods used in these attacks in an isolated and controlled lab environment.”

Using this lens, the kids are able to discover quickly that they (or their families) were involved in some of the attacks. Because of this realization, the club leaders are able to introduce concepts of digital citizenship, persona management, and authentication safeguards (including multi-factor authentication). In some cases, club leaders were able to help students discover that their caregivers’ identities were compromised in one of the attacks profiled during the club.

From this learning experience, the kids are armed with both respectable technical hacking skills and the knowledge to keep themselves and their families safer online.

“It’s fantastic when I'm approached by a parent/guardian/caregiver after their student completes the program telling me that all of their online accounts now have multi-factor authentication enabled, they've found their exposed credentials on the internet and deleted them, and they had no idea that they shouldn't use the same password across multiple websites,” says Lawrence. “When I hear this (which is now surprisingly often), I'm encouraged by the awesomeness and capabilities of these kids. It's really impressive what they can do!”

Even more opportunity for growth and learning

Recently, McPie also added a curriculum to specifically reach and include middle school girls. An affiliate of the national Girls Who Code initiative, the McPie CyberCoders Club incorporates the exceptional content from GWC and adds in aspects of security, communication, and team support aspects central to a modern Agile Secure Software Development environment.

Additionally, in 2019, CIT introduced another club to McPie that introduces software development skills to middle school students. In conjunction with Girls Who Code (GWC), the CyberCoders club uses the exceptional program developed by GWC and adds the concepts of Secure Software Development Lifecycle, Agile and Continuous Integration and Development, Vulnerability Management, and Responsible Disclosure.

Collectively, this 14-week course equips its students with an understanding of modern software development, the many diverse skillsets that are involved in application development, technical skills in application organization and assembly, and the communication concepts required when working in agile teams. These skills are widely applicable both in software development and their routine academic life.

An enlightening space through STEM programming

McClintock Middle School was consistently low-performing academically prior to the founding of the Computer Building Club. The school had been labeled as “chronically low-achieving” by the State Board of Education. However, the impact of this club on its students was fantastic, and the overall influence made by McPie to the McClintock educational community was substantial.

The Urban Institute of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte documented a full letter grade improvement in Science and Math, a radical decline in unattended absences from school, and dozens of students applying to college with the intention of pursuing engineering and computer science disciplines. With such impressive results, it’s not surprising that it was recognized by North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (SMT) as the leading partnership program throughout the state in 2013. It is said that this program “saved the school”, providing a safe space for learning and innovation for thousands of students who may have been displaced if the school were to close.

CIT is proud to be a part of McClintock Partners in Education and share their passion for Information Security and technology as a whole with the community—and most importantly, the next generation of Cyber-Professionals. Lawrence’s work with McPie has helped hundreds of students to find a love of Information Technology and engineering disciplines. Lawrence and his team are excited to continue to equip the students of McClintock Middle School to create their future stories for many years to come.

Follow Lawrence Cruciana and CIT on Twitter to keep up with their future efforts to better the world.

Lawrence Cruciana: @lcruciana

CIT: @corpinfotech