White House Announces An Effort To Secure K-12 Schools From A Cybersecurity Standpoint

The White House has announced a new effort to secure K-12 schools:

According to a 2022 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, the loss of learning following a cyberattack ranged from three days to three weeks, and recovery time can take anywhere from two to nine months.  Further, the monetary losses to school districts following a cyber incident ranged from $50,000 to $1 million. That is why the Biden-Harris Administration has had a relentless focus on securing our nation’s critical infrastructure since day one, and continues to work tirelessly to provide resources that enable the U.S.’s more than 13,000 school districts to better protect and defend their students and employees against cyberattacks.

Allen Drennan, Co-Founder & Principal, Cordoniq had this to say:

As part of an overall strategy for cyber defense for K-12 schools, districts need to consider taking control over their implementation of both their LMS (learning management systems) and their virtual meeting solution. This is a necessity for controlling available, uptime and scale and handle issues related recovery management and for providing higher security standards and data privacy protection for students and teachers. Solutions that rely solely on cloud-based providers outside of control of the school district are subject to outages, availability concerns and malicious cyber threats.

As I have said previously, the education sector is a prime target for threat actors. Only through scaling the investments in cybersecurity can this sector be fully protected. Thus I applaud the White House for making this move.

UPDATE: Emily Phelps, Director, Cyware submitted this comment:   

“Since adopting digital technologies to adapt to a post-Covid world, securing public schools has become more challenging and more critical. We’re encouraged by the Department of Education’s announcement around strengthening cybersecurity resilience for K-12 entities. Working with CISA to develop practical, actionable guidelines and partnerships with private entities that can bolster K-12 public education’s defenses reinforces the commitment this administration has made to cybersecurity at federal and local levels. Collaboration and collective defense strategies are increasingly important to our public entities and citizenry, and as private-public partnerships garner attention and success, we hope these examples will motivate similar action.”  

Carol Volk, EVP, BullWall follows with this comment:    

“Google and the social media giants should be pumping money into K-12 cyber defenses and education, as they are as much the cause of this firestorm of malicious hacking as they are the benefactors of the younger generations embrace of 24-7 connectivity. With congress tightly focused on the responsibility these companies bear from social media fallout, we can expect these giants to be paying attention to this problem area.” 

UPDATE #2: Ani Chaudhuri, CEO, Dasera adds this:

The recent initiative by the Biden-Harris Administration to bolster cybersecurity in our K-12 schools is a commendable and urgently needed step. The surge in cyberattacks targeting the institutions that shape our future leaders has highlighted an alarming vulnerability. Imagine a nation where school districts are routinely disrupted, and the sensitive data of our children is compromised and auctioned off to the highest bidder.

In the 2022-23 academic year alone, we’ve seen significant cyberattacks on K-12 school districts that have compromised the personal data of students and employees. This isn’t just about data; it’s about our children’s future, their privacy, and the trust they place in the education system.

It’s heartening to see the federal government respond with vigor. The proposed pilot program, the collaboration between different governmental bodies, and the available resources to strengthen cybersecurity infrastructure are steps in the right direction. And while the involvement of education technology giants such as AWS, Google, and others is promising, it’s crucial to ask ourselves if it’s enough.

The real challenge is ensuring these policies and programs aren’t just reactive. We must be proactive, looking ahead to anticipate and thwart future cyber threats. Collaboration between public and private sectors should be constant, not just when disaster strikes. We must understand that the next generation’s education is now intrinsically linked with cybersecurity, and there is no room for complacency.

The increased attention to cybersecurity in our education system is a clear signal of our times. We need to instill a culture of cybersecurity from the classroom to the boardroom. Let’s not wait for another breach to shake us into action. The safety of our nation’s future is at stake.

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