“The Education Department will launch a coordinating council to provide formal collaboration between government officials and district leaders to help schools strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities in the face of attacks that have closed campuses and exposed highly sensitive student and educator information online.”
Why this is important: As we have discussed in previous editions of Decoded and The Academic Advisor, the education sector has been experiencing devastating cyberattacks, ransomware attacks, and data breaches over the last few years. In fact, the education sector is one of the most targeted parts of the U.S. economy, outpacing health care, technology, financial services, and manufacturing. The education sector is such an inviting target because of the large number of vulnerabilities and the vast amount of easily available data. This data includes not just the personal data of students and staff, but in relation to higher education, sensitive research data. As IT specialists in the education sector try to change and adapt to these ever-evolving attacks, they are unable to keep up with the new tactics utilized by these bad actors. What is enabling bad actors to continue to be successful in attacking the education sector is the continuing trend to digitize instruction and daily operations. This trend has accelerated with the increased use of distance learning during the pandemic.
The Biden administration wants to break this cycle of attack on public school districts. The school districts, especially the smaller ones, often lack the funding and resources necessary to effectively combat these attacks. In response to this problem, the Department of Education is going to establish a group to coordinate with school districts to thwart these ever increasing and sophisticated cyberattacks. This includes partnering with the Los Angeles and Minneapolis school districts, both of which have recently experienced devastating cyberattacks. The plan is to have teams of federal cybersecurity experts visit school districts to help them create incident response plans. Additionally, several technology companies have committed to partner with school districts to provide them with free and low-cost resources to combat these cyberattacks. The Department of Education’s goal is to make cybersecurity a greater priority by giving school districts the tools they need to protect their sensitive data. --- Alexander L. Turner