By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE- Nearly 60% of reported ransomware incidents that occurred in the fall, 2020 involved K-12 schools.
Once this warning was given by the FBI, IBM responded, realizing they had to help districts proactively be ready in every way possible for cyberattacks. Their answer was the creation of in-kind grants, involving IBM volunteers, who would carry out services integral to preparing for and responding to these computer attacks. Named the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grant, six school districts-out of the 250 (representing7800 schools and over 4 million students) that applied nationwide- were recently selected as inaugural recipients. Among those chosen was the Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD). As a result PCSD will be provided with a range of services valued at $500,000 which will include password hygiene, the implementation of strategic communication plans, and the creation of an incident response plan. It’s a roadmap that has many in the PCSD super excited, as the breadth of its positive, critical effect is potent.
“This is an opportunity for Poughkeepsie City School District to strengthen its technological infrastructure as it relates to our housing, security and maintenance structure; our infrastructure will be evaluated by IBM professionals who will then proceed with our specific needs being met,” said Dr. Eric Jay Rosser, PCSD Superintendent. “We are really excited to be named one of six districts, giving us a greater opportunity to strengthen our entire organization, so our impact is even greater meeting the overall academic, social, emotional and supportive needs of our children.”
PCSD is no stranger to cybersecurity issues, experiencing a ransomware attack on February 25, 2020, resulting in lost access and documents used by teachers and staff that were stored on a specific server. Fortunately, no personal data or student data was compromised, and steps were taken to secure the system with the server replaced. Still, it was yet another reminder of the imperative nature of keeping cybersecurity as updated and effective as possible in our schools.
“While ransomware is on the rise across so many different industries, schools just don’t have the budgeting or resources those other industries have,” said Nick Rossmann, Global Threat Intelligence Lead IBM Security X-Force. “We’re excited to award Poughkeepsie School District with one of the Education Security Preparedness Grants to help fill that gap, as well as raise awareness on the importance of cybersecurity across the education industry as a whole.”
The whole process is set in motion this summer when IBM volunteers will be on site at the PCSD, working for four weeks to start assessing present cyberware security while implementing a plan and action for some adjustments-upgrades. To learn more about the IBM Education Security Grant and to access cybersecurity resources for schools, visit: ibm.biz/security-grant.