IBM has expanded a program to improve the cybersecurity defenses of public schools with $5 million in grants.
On Tuesday, IBM said $5 million of in-kind grants would be awarded to public schools, including K-12 institutions in the United States. While IBM's existing grants program has previously focused on US schools, the scheme has now expanded to other countries.
IBM said these programs are necessary to "help address cybersecurity resiliency in schools, including against ransomware."
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In total, six grants are being awarded to US school districts. In addition, four grants are destined for Brazil, Costa Rica, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates. Each award is worth $500,000, bringing the total to $5 million in resources and hours.
The program is part of IBM's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives under IBM Impact, including social, environmental, and governance projects.
IBM teams will work with schools to audit existing defenses and create playbooks for incident response. In addition, they will address cybersecurity awareness and training for staff, students, and parents, and develop a management-level strategic plan for handling communication in the aftermath of a cyberattack.
According to Emsisoft research, more than 1,000 educational establishments in the US alone suffered a ransomware attack in 2021, including school districts, colleges, and universities.
The researchers say that 2,323 local governments, schools, and healthcare providers in the US public sector became the victims of ransomware operators during the course of the past year.
"For schools, a large barrier to strengthening their cybersecurity posture often comes down to constrained budgets, which financially motivated threat actors bet on," commented Charles Henderson, head of IBM Security X-Force. "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."
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