IBM Announces Cybersecurity Grants for US Schools

American technology company IBM announced today that it will be making $3m available to US public schools in the form of cybersecurity grants.

Grants in the form of in-kind services will be awarded to six school districts to sponsor “teams of IBMers” from the company’s Service Corps Program who will help schools proactively prepare for cyber-attacks and learn how to mitigate them. 

The announcement comes after an IBM-sponsored study revealed that nearly 60% of school staff are unprepared to face cybersecurity threats and more than half said their school would be more secure if it had more money.

The study itself was prompted by an alert issued by the FBI in December 2020 that warned that out of all the reported ransomware incidents that took place between August and September 2020, nearly 60% involved K–12 schools, an increase of 29% from the two months prior.

Completed by Morning Consult, the study surveyed 1,000 US educators and administrators in K–12 schools and colleges to gauge the level of cybersecurity awareness, preparedness, and training within schools during the widespread adoption of remote learning.

Among the key findings of the survey are the while 78% of educators reported that they are currently using some form of online schooling, nearly 60% of educators and administrators said they aren’t sure or haven’t received new cybersecurity initiatives or remote learning training.

More than half of educators and administrators have not received cybersecurity training, and, despite widespread media coverage of Zoom-bombing attacks, nearly 50% of educators said that they aren’t familiar with video-bombing. 

Most administrators (83%) were confident in the ability of their school to handle a cyber-attack, yet more than 60% didn’t know whether their school had any cyber-insurance.

Six grants, valued at $500k each, will be awarded in 2021 to school districts that apply via IBM.org. Application is open now until March 1.  

“Ransomware attacks on schools have become the new snow day for students,” said Christopher Scott, director of security innovation, office of the CISO, IBM. “And with budgets focused on new ways of learning, many schools are in need of additional resources and technology to change the dynamic and lower the financial ROI for the bad guys targeting them.”

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