The Morning Blend


IBM: Why schools should make cybersecurity a priority

Posted at 4:36 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 19:36:28-04

IBM is a paid sponsor of The Morning Blend.

Ransomware has become a problem for everyone, from the everyday person to high-profile organizations and even schools - in fact, nearly 1,700 ransomware incidents in 2020 involved K-12 schools. With back-to-school season in full swing, teachers and students are transitioning back to the classroom and it’s more critical than ever schools prepare for cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals have zeroed in on schools due to the challenges brought on by remote learning during the pandemic, as well as lacking resources, training and budget. In addition to growing attacks, cybercriminals have also become more aggressive, increasing their ransom demands and threatening data leaks when they’re not met. As schools continue to serve as lucrative targets for these criminals, and get ready to welcome their students and staff back to classrooms, it’s time they work on their cybersecurity preparedness now.

To help aid schools with their cybersecurity, IBM selected six school districts to receive its Education Security Preparedness Grant, which totaled $3 million. The in-kind grant was created to help United States K-12 public school districts proactively prepare for and respond to cyberattacks. The grant selection process also highlighted critical roadblocks that schools face in strengthening their cybersecurity:

Disparity in cybersecurity budgets: 50% of the districts had less than $100,000 for cybersecurity spending – for the entire school district. This is in comparison to larger school districts that cited cybersecurity budgets in the millions.
Ransomware attacks: More than 40% of applicants already experienced a ransomware attack.
Security training: More than 55% of school districts are operating without any security training.

What Can Schools Do?
All educational institutions can consider the below recommendations to help better prepare for, and respond to, cyberattacks:
Prepare and budget for cybersecurity by creating incident response plans and exploring resources like cyber insurance.
Train staff, students and parents and provide clear guidelines for device usage, passwords, secure Wi-Fi connections and video conferencing.
Test and patch critical systems, especially those used across multiple schools to avoid widespread impact and make use of the cloud to help securely store and backup data.
Embrace the Cloud, use cloud and SaaS tools, and backup files offline to help ensure their recovery.
Stay educated and collaborate through information sharing to be aware of potential threats and vulnerabilities and build relationships with law enforcement for further collaboration