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IBM Allocates $5 Million in Grants to Enhance Cybersecurity and AI Skilling in Schools

With the rising prevalence of cyberattacks targeting educational institutions, IBM has taken a proactive step by offering in-kind grants worth $5 million to bolster cybersecurity resiliency in schools. The IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program, now in its third year, is expanding globally and will also provide students and teachers with access to cybersecurity and AI skills training through IBM SkillsBuild.

Ransomware attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and are posing a significant threat to schools worldwide. According to IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023, the time required for deploying ransomware attacks has decreased from over two months to less than four days between 2019 and 2021. Disturbingly, the education sector witnessed a more than twofold increase in cybersecurity incidents in 2022 compared to the previous year, surpassing any other industry’s year-over-year growth.

Andy Piazza, Global Head of Threat Intelligence at IBM Security X-Force, pointed out the vulnerability of educational institutions, emphasizing that “time and time again, attackers go after the education sector, yet many of these institutions remain constrained in their security resources.” In response, the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program has already made a positive impact, benefiting over 350,000 students globally by aiding schools in recovering from ransomware attacks, strengthening their security postures, and preventing further disruptions through the assistance of IBM Service Corps.

IBM Grant and benefits to schools:

Applications for the grants are now open on a global scale. IBM will award grants valued at $500,000 each, totaling $5 million, to six school districts in the United States and an additional four districts worldwide. IBM Service Corps volunteers, leveraging their professional expertise, will assist schools in developing programs to enhance cybersecurity resiliency. Selected school districts will receive a comprehensive range of resources, including incident response plans and ransomware playbooks, programs to update operating systems, strategic communication plans for cyber incidents, and training and digital credentials through IBM SkillsBuild in areas such as AI and cybersecurity. Additional benefits include enhanced access to IBM mentors, teacher training, toolkits, and personalized learning pathways.

Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM Chief Impact Officer, recognized the urgent need to bridge the global skills gap in cybersecurity and AI, stating that “the global skills gap across cybersecurity and AI is a growing challenge that demands immediate attention.” She further explained that IBM is committed to driving impact in schools worldwide through the Education Security Grants program, expanding its offerings to include the benefits of IBM SkillsBuild training in AI and cybersecurity for students and teachers.

Since its inception in 2021, the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program has attracted numerous applications from school districts seeking to strengthen their security frameworks in response to the escalating threats faced by the education sector. Past grant recipients have praised the program’s effectiveness and encouraged other schools to apply. Robert Losinski, Manager of Information Security at Denver Public Schools, acknowledged the program’s positive impact, stating, “With IBM’s assistance, we improved our cybersecurity incident response plan and used it to better prepare us for handling incidents in the future. Attackers are targeting schools because many do not have mature security frameworks to effectively defend against ransomware and other cybercrime. Getting professional assistance in expanding your cybersecurity program will really help you identify the most critical areas to protect.”

K-12 public schools and educational institutions interested in applying for IBM’s education cybersecurity grants can submit their applications through IBM’s website at https://www.ibm.com/impact/initiatives/security. The application deadline is July 24, 2023.

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