IBM Donates $5M to Help Public Schools Protect Against Ransomware

IBM Donates $5M to Help Public Schools Protect Against Ransomware

By Stefania Viscusi

Protecting the public school system from ransomware and other security threats has been a major concern. With new network and data security breaches happening across the globe, the need for tools and support to mitigate these risks is growing.

To help address the need for cybersecurity resiliency in schools worldwide, IBM announced it is providing in-kind grants valued at $5 million as part of IBM's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives to help establish programs and cybersecurity support in schools across the U.S.

Thousands of schools across the U.S. fall victim to ransomware attacks as criminals take advantage of vulnerabilities in these institutions when it comes to defenses and expertise. This is also becoming a global issue for schools as the rate of attacks has more than doubled in the last year alone.

This year Brazil, Costa Rica, Ireland and the UAE have also been added as recipients of the grants.

"For schools, a large barrier to strengthening their cybersecurity posture often comes down to constrained budgets, which financially motivated threat actors bet on," said Charles Henderson, Global Managing Partner and Head of IBM Security X-Force. "By pursuing targets with lower defenses, threat actors can reap quick rewards and yield a higher return. In the event of ransomware attacks, the extreme added pressure schools experience to pay a ransom to recover their operations is a profitable wager for the bad guys. As a leader in the security community, it's our duty to help our educational institutions strengthen their cyber preparedness."

Six school districts were awarded the in-kind grants based on their cybersecurity needs and experiences, community resources, and potential risks. As part of the grant, they gained access to IBM Service Corps teams to help prepare them to proactively respond to cyberattacks including the development of incident response plans, ransomware playbooks, operating system updates and cybersecurity training for staff, students, and parents.

In response to the growing need for security support in schools, IBM has added additional grants to its program (a total of 10) valued at $500,000 each.

"Our access to IBM's cybersecurity professionals allowed us to reframe our perspective on how vulnerabilities may originate, and how to educate our school community about cybersecurity safety practices," said Ra'Chel Ford, Chief Operating Officer at KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. "We thought cybersecurity concerns were limited to sharing passwords and email phishing, but we now realize that cybersecurity breaches come in many forms. Cybersecurity is now viewed as part of our School Safety Plan and Crisis Response Plan. Everyone plays a part – board members, families, scholars, staff, and vendors. This was one of the best decisions we made for our organization."

Applications are currently open for any K-12 public school district based in the U.S. through June 21, 2022.

For the latest information about the cyber landscape, join MSP Expo 2022, delivering four days of education and networking specifically focused on the MSP community, including one full track dedicated to security.  MSP Expo 2022 takes place June 21-24, 2022 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and is collocated alongside the other #TECHSUPERSHOW events, including ITEXPO, Future of Work Expo, IoT Evolution Expo, The Blockchain Event, and more.

Edited by Erik Linask
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