Cyberattacks are an increasing threat to businesses, governments, and organizations of all kinds across the world. Educational institutions have now become new targets, especially in this modern era where the traditional classroom is undergoing a serious transformation.
Schools, colleges, and universities are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals, leading to a lot of devastating effects. In Countries like South Africa, we have seen news of recent cases, including the ransomware attack on The University of Mpumalanga (UMP) on its bank accounts. In Kenya, Mount Kenya University was also hacked in 2020 and data of various students – both past and present – shared online in hacker forums. The same happened to Nigerian-based Ahmadu Bello University.
Inadequate security measures have always been described as the cause of these frequent hacks. Hackers target these institutions mainly because they process and store a high volume of confidential/valuable information which is a goldmine for them.
IBM has now announced its plans to help address cybersecurity resiliency in schools. Through its IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program, the tech giant says it will provide $5 million in grants to help fight cybersecurity.
The IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program was created in 2021 and since then it has benefited more than 350,000 students globally.
“Time and time again attackers go after the education sector, yet many of these institutions remain constrained in their security resources,” said Andy Piazza, Global Head of Threat Intelligence, IBM Security X-Force.
“To date, this program has helped more than 350,000 students across schools in the US and abroad, with IBM Service Corps helping them recover from ransomware attacks, strengthen their security posture against future attacks and prevent further disruption.”
This year, the program will also include enhanced offerings from IBM SkillsBuild on topics including AI and cybersecurity.
Ransomware is unfolding faster than ever, with attackers managing to cut down the time required to deploy ransomware attacks from over two months to just under four days between 2019 and 2021, according to IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023. In fact, the share of cybersecurity incidents observed in the education sector more than doubled in 2022 compared to the year prior, experiencing the largest increase year over year than any other industry.
IBM will offer grants valued at $500,000 each ($5 million in total) to six school districts in the US with an additional four around the world. Volunteers, through IBM Service Corps, will use their professional skills to help schools establish programs to address cybersecurity resiliency. Each selected school will receive incident response plans and ransomware playbooks, programs to help address the need for updating operating systems as well as strategic communication plans to use in response to cyber incidents, and
The schools will also receive training and digital credentials through IBM SkillsBuild on topics including AI and cybersecurity and additional benefits such as enhanced access to IBM mentors, teacher training and toolkits, and customized learning pathways.
“The global skills gap across cybersecurity and AI is a growing challenge that demands immediate attention,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM Chief Impact Officer. “To address this challenge, IBM awards Education Security Grants to drive impact with schools worldwide. This year, we’re excited to expand the program to bring the benefits of IBM SkillsBuild training on topics like AI and cybersecurity for students and teachers.”
Applications for schools are now open globally.