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By Nikki Cabus

IBM to grant $5M to schools to boost cybersecurity & AI skills

Read Time 4 Minutes

In response to the growing threat of ransomware attacks against schools around the world, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced it will provide in-kind grants valued at $5 million to help address cybersecurity resiliency in schools. The deadline to apply is June 23, 2023.

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. Hear more from Andy here.

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 Preparedness 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.”

Robert Losinski, Manager of Information Security at Denver Public Schools, stated that “With IBM’s assistance, we improved our cybersecurity incident response plan and used it to better prepare us for handling incidents in the future.” He continued , “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.”

Since its inception in 2021, IBM has received hundreds of applications for this award-winning program from school districts seeking to strengthen their security postures in response to the growing threats in the education space. Past recipients of the IBM Education Security Preparedness Grants have encouraged other schools to apply.

The 2022 and 2021 Grantees included:

  • Brevard Public Schools in Viera, FL
  • City of Dublin Educational Training Board in Ireland
  • Cupertino Union School District in Sunnyvale, CA
  • Denver Public Schools in Denver, CO
  • East China School District in East China, MI
  • Goffstown School District in Goffstown, NH
  • KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools in Atlanta, GA
  • Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in United Arab Emirates
  • Newburgh Enlarged City School District in Newburgh, NY
  • Newhall School District in Valencia, CA
  • Poughkeepsie City School District in Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Prince William Country Public Schools in Manassas, VA
  • Rossville Cons. School District in Rossville, IN
  • Sheldon Independent School District in Houston, TX

Awards were allocated based on cybersecurity needs, experiences, community resources, and potential risks.

K-12 public schools and educational institutions/organizations that are interested in applying for IBM’s education cybersecurity grant can apply via IBM.com here: https://www.ibm.com/impact/initiatives/security.

For more information about IBM’s cybersecurity grants for schools, visit: https://www.ibm.com/impact/initiatives/security.

For more information about IBM Security X-Force’s services and capabilities, visit: https://www.ibm.com/security/xforce.

The 2023 grant cycle is now open. Apply by June 23, 2023 to receive one of ten available grants.

By Nikki Cabus

Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints Christine Vanderpool to the Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council

Read Time 3 Minutes

Just last month, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Palm Beach County’s Christine Vanderpool to the Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council. 

Christine Vanderpool is the Vice President of IT Strategy, Architecture and Chief Information Security Officer for Florida Crystals Corporation.

Florida Crystals Corporation is a fully integrated cane sugar and agriculture company in Palm Beach County. Florida Crystals’ subsidiary, ASR Group, jointly owned with Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, is the world’s largest cane sugar refining and marketing company, with refineries in Louisiana, California, New York, Maryland, Canada, Mexico, England, Portugal and, with a joint venture partner, Italy. Its products are marketed through its brand portfolio: Florida Crystals®, Domino®, C&H®, Redpath®, Tate & Lyle® and Sidul®. Florida Crystals’ FCI Residential subsidiary develops, constructs and manages luxury multi-family communities in urban and infill areas.

Vanderpool is also a current Board Member of the South Florida Tech Hub and serves as Chair of the Evanta Chief Information Security Officer Florida Governing Body. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of New Mexico. Christine was also named the 2019 Cyber Security Woman Leader of the Year and the 2020 recipient of Global Technology Executives Who Matter Award.

Vanderpool simply stated that she is “deeply honored and excited to be appointed to the council.”

Passed during the 2021 Regular Legislative session of the Florida Legislature, the Cybersecurity Advisory Council was established. According to Cyber Florida, “the Council is tasked with helping state agencies protect their information technology resources from cyber threats and incidents by assisting the Department of Management Services in establishing and implementing cybersecurity best practices.” Seven individuals were appointed to the original task force in 2021.

Other members of the Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council include:

  • Mike McConnell, VADM, USN, Ret., Cyber Florida Executive Director and former director of US National Intelligence and the National Security Agency
  • Jaromy Kuhl – Professor and Dean, University of West Florida
  • Pedro Allende – Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure, Risk and Resilience Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Linda Reid – Vice President of Security, Walt Disney Company
  • Eli Dominitz – Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Q6 Cyber
  • Jason Raymond – Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer, GuideWell and Florida Blue
  • Benjamin Miron – Vice President of Infrastructure and Cybersecurity, NextEra Energy

The council shall be comprised of the following members:

  • The Lieutenant Governor or his or her designee.
  • The state chief information officer.
  • The state chief information security officer.
  • The director of the Division of Emergency Management or his or her designee.
  • A representative of the computer crime center of the Department of Law Enforcement, appointed by the executive director of the Department of Law Enforcement.
  • A representative of the Florida Fusion Center of the Department of Law Enforcement, appointed by the executive director of the Department of Law Enforcement.
  • The Chief Inspector General.
  • A representative from the Public Service Commission.
  • Up to two representatives from institutions of higher education located in this state, appointed by the Governor.
  • Three representatives from critical infrastructure sectors, one of whom must be from a water treatment facility, appointed by the Governor.
  • Four representatives of the private sector with senior level experience in cybersecurity or software engineering from within the finance, energy, health care, and transportation sectors, appointed by the Governor.
  • Two representatives with expertise on emerging technology, with one appointed by the President of the Senate and one appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In a recent Online Sunshine article, it was written that “Beginning June 30, 2022, and each June 30 thereafter, the council shall submit to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives any legislative recommendations considered necessary by the council to address cybersecurity. Beginning December 1, 2022, and each December 1 thereafter, the council shall submit to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a comprehensive report that includes data, trends, analysis, findings, and recommendations for state and local action regarding ransomware incidents.”

 

IBM to grant $5M to schools to boost cybersecurity & AI skills
Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints Christine Vanderpool to the Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council