IBM To Provide $5mln In-Kind Grants For Schools To Boost Cybersecurity

In response to the growing threat of ransomware attacks against schools around the world, IBM today announced it will provide in-kind grants valued at $5 million to help address cybersecurity resiliency in schools. Since its creation in 2021, the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants program has expanded globally, and this year 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.

“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.”

Applications for schools are now open globally. Grants valued at $500,000 each ($5 million in total) will be awarded 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,
  • strategic communication plans to use in response to cyber incidents, and
  • 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.”

Fahad Al Anazi, GM, IBM Saudi Arabia, said “While Saudi Arabia is widely regarded for the robustness of its digital ecosystem, proactive steps are important to safeguard its future. Today, at a time when cyber threats and attacks are becoming even more sophisticated and prevalent, it became essential to develop a risk aware culture that is more mindful of security when using data & technology. Young people, the architects of tomorrow — of a greater Saudi Arabia — are the key to unlocking the Kingdom’s potential.”

He added: “At IBM, we are committed to pioneering services and solutions that empower people, communities and entities around the world to be as secure as possible. As part of this mission, we recognize that it is vital that we educate young people and equip them with the tools to navigate the modern world of work and business. Our work with educational institutions will help us to achieve this.”