A Computer Science and Engineering graduate from Institute of Engineering and Management (IEM), Kolkata, and a master’s in Electronics and Communications Engineering student from Boston University came together to set up ZeroDollarSecurity, a crowdsourced and crowd-skilled cybersecurity community-driven organisation in 2019.
ZeroDollarSecurity provides free cybersecurity education to more than 5,000 community members across 11 countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, USA, and Vietnam.
Sohang Sengupta, who passed out of IEM in 2021, and Sourav Chakraborty of Boston University have also mentored and sponsored cybersecurity activities at institutes like NIT Durgapur, Jadavpur University, Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women, Delhi.
The duo tell Edugraph about the subscription-driven technology services
Edugraph: Tell us about ZeroDollarSecurity.
Sohang Sengupta: ZeroDollarSecurity is a platform for cybersecurity enthusiasts. We started training students in India and expanded the community to 11 different countries. The non-profit organisation follows a community-driven model where we try to keep things off the money matters. We realised that cybersecurity as a domain is very lucrative. Some companies are driving a monopoly in this business. Cybersecurity products are getting expensive. It is easy for large organisations to afford these services but when it comes to small and medium-sized organisations, services come at a cost.
Sourav Chakraborty: Cybersecurity is a growing market and is now at its peak. People consider cyber documents, digital copies and digital assets the most valuable. They need to avail certain facilities to protect these digital documents and assets. That is where we step in. We initially started building a community where we educated people about the nuances and the beauty of cybersecurity. We wanted to make people aware of the cyber threats that they are vulnerable to and then move into a service package of cyber protection. So ZeroDollarSecurity is a community of specialised and certified cybersecurity enthusiasts and professionals.
The bio says it’s a crowdsourced and crowd-skilled Cybersecurity Community Driven Organisation. What does it mean? How does that work?
Sohang: For any crowdsourced and crowd-skilled organisation to work, you need an educated crowd with similar interests and research. Getting a crowd is not an issue but getting an educated crowd takes time. We are trying to focus on cybersecurity as a domain. For that, we gathered people with similar interests, similar research and it took us a lot of time and effort.
Our team has people from different areas of expertise in cybersecurity who understand different levels of vulnerability, assessment, penetration and testing. So we can provide the relevant services to people at the correct time and the best cost possible.
Why did you pick this idea to work on?
Sohang: Cybersecurity is the need of the hour and it is a market that is growing. I come from a cybersecurity background and my motivation was to create a community where people can learn in a very different way that could make the cybersecurity community stronger. Cybersecurity should be more commoditised.
Sourav: From a business perspective, we always look into domains that are untagged but are a growing necessity. Everyone today has smartphones, iPads and laptops, so it is no longer a luxury but a necessity for people to be aware of cybersecurity.
What kind of career prospects does cybersecurity offer to young people who want to get into this area?
Sourav: Every hour there can be a new state-of-the-art sophisticated cyber threat, so cybersecurity is a self-learning model. It is always growing and upgrading just like all devices now come with software updates. The smarter we get in protecting our assets, the more the other side of the game will find it difficult to take it away. So passionately-driven individuals who are completely into it and want to develop their special set of skills is the need of the hour. It is a very niche domain as of now.
How did you guys get together to collaborate on it? Were you friends from before?
Sourav: By the time I graduated from IEM (Institute of Engineering and Management), Kolkata, Sohang was junior to me. We got connected through one of the start-ups. My ideology always was to monetise a project. My domain was electronics and communication, a lot of encryption-based communication. Sohang comes with extensive knowledge about cybersecurity. He was the perfect person to collaborate with and take our project forward. We have been collaborating since then and between all our work we are always brainstorming for new ideas. Our vision is to make people aware of the requirements of cybersecurity.
What are your plans for taking this venture forward?
Sourav: Three such products are in the pipeline. One of them is in the financial technology domain, second on the social media domain. The third project focuses on video-conferencing software that works on a walky-talky model.