According to research by Emsisoft, a software development company, 2020 was a record-breaking year in cyberattacks against K-12 districts, with 1700 ransomware attacks in schools and universities.
So to empower the districts with limited resources to fight against cybersecurity threats, a national grant program has been launched by IBM.
IBM will split $3 million among six districts: Brevard Public Schools in Viera, Fla., Sheldon Independent School District in Houston, Texas, KIPP Metro Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia, Poughkeepsie City School District in New York, Newhall School District in Valencia, California, and Denver Public Schools in Colorado.
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This funding will pay for the work of IBM Service Corps teams to strengthen anti-ransomware and cybersecurity protocols in collaboration with the districts.
It was in February 2021 when IBM announced this program and, in response, received applications from more than 250 US K-12 school districts. It was observed that approximately 50% of the districts could spend less than $100,000 on cybersecurity.
Along with that, more than 40% of districts have experienced ransomware attacks but lack the training to prevent such future incidents.
On cybersecurity attacks Newhall Superintendent, Mr Jeff Pelzel said that if the fortune 500 companies with enough funds cannot protect themselves again cybersecurity attacks, then the schools with significantly less fund cannot be expected to keep them protected on their own.
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Ransomware attackers ask for a large sum of money from the districts to keep the sensitive data undisclosed. According to the Emsisoft report, in 2020, large communities, including Baltimore County Public Schools and Clark County School District in Nevada, were victimized by the ransomware attacks.
Nick Rossmann, the Global Threat Intelligence Lead, IBM, said that it was in 2019 when IBM first thought of starting an Education Security Preparedness Grant program while responding to a ransomware attack that affected thousands of devices in Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish School System.
He also added that about 55% of school districts lack adequate cybersecurity training in a situation where ransomware is a primary cybersecurity threat across U.S. schools.
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