Aug 8, 2023 - Technology

The White House unveils its plan for K-12 cyber needs

Illustration of a notebook and computer juxtaposed with handwritten and typed abc's on the devices.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The White House unveiled a multipronged plan Monday to help bolster K-12 schools' cybersecurity as ransomware continues to pummel their systems.

Why it matters: Schools have struggled to improve their cyber defense postures due to a lack of funding and buy-in from district administrators trying to juggle other priorities.

  • The new plan pulls in resources from the public and private sectors to make it easier for schools to access better cybersecurity tools.

Details: Several government agencies and tech companies made promises Monday to launch pilot programs and donate tools to bridge schools' cybersecurity gaps.

  • The Federal Communications Commission is looking at setting up a pilot program to provide $200 million in the next three years to schools and libraries for cyber tools through the agency's Universal Service Fund.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will host cyber training exercises roughly once a month over the next school year with the goal of helping at least 300 K-12 entities.
  • The Department of Education is standing up a coordinating council to improve communication among federal, state, local, tribal and territorial education groups about cyber threats they're facing.
  • Several tech companies — including AWS, Cloudflare and PowerSchool — made commitments to provide free services and fund tech upgrades for schools.

Yes, but: Each of these moves is a first step to make resources available to schools — and none of them mandates that schools participate.

The big picture: The White House estimates that at least eight K-12 school districts faced "significant cyberattacks" last school year.

  • Four of those schools had to at least cancel classes as they responded to the attacks.

Zoom in: Government officials, educators and tech vendors participated Tuesday in the White House's K-12 cybersecurity summit — which was delayed a day due to tornado warnings in the D.C. area.

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