IBM to Grant $5 Million in-kind for Public Schools Globally to Better Prepare for Growing Ransomware Threat
Thursday, May 26th, 2022
IBM today announced it will provide in-kind grants valued at $5 million to help address cybersecurity resiliency in schools worldwide. For the second year in a row, six school districts in the United States will be awarded these grants. This year the program is also expanding overseas with four additional grants in Brazil, Costa Rica, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates. As part of each grant, sponsor teams of IBMers will help schools proactively prepare for and respond to cyberattacks.
In 2021, in the U.S. alone over 1,000 schools across the country suffered from a ransomware attack, according to Emsisoft research. Financially motivated cybercriminals are taking advantage of schools' need for uptime, their scarcity of cybersecurity defense resources, and lack of expertise compared to other potential targets. Cybercriminals' focus on schools is also increasing on a global scale. In a recent report, IBM Security X-Force observed globally that the percentage of ransomware attacks against the education sector more than doubled from 2020 to 2021, with most cyberattacks taking the form of adware (33%) or ransomware (22%) attacks.
"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."
The grant, created as part of IBM's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, will be an in-kind contribution in the form of resources and hours performed by IBM Service Corps teams. Through IBM Service Corps, IBMers use their professional skills to help communities tackle complex challenges in education, humanitarian efforts, cybersecurity, and economic development. Through this grant program, volunteers will help schools establish programs to address cybersecurity resiliency and will provide services including developing incident response plans and ransomware playbooks. The programs will address the need for updating operating systems, providing cybersecurity training for staff, students, and parents, and implementing strategic communication plans to use in response to a cyber incident.