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Federal Bill Aims to Harden Schools Against Cyberattacks

A new proposal at the federal level would create millions of dollars in new funding for cybersecurity protections for school districts. Schools have been an increasingly popular target for cybercriminals.

The nation's capitol
The nation's capitol.
At a time when hackers have ramped up attacks on educational institutions nationwide, a new proposal would create additional cybersecurity protections for school districts across the country.  

Last week, U.S. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Calif., announced that he would soon introduce The Protecting Students from Cybercrimes Act, which would allocate $25 million in federal grants to U.S. schools over a five-year period for the purposes of hardening cybersecurity infrastructure.

The grants could be used for a number of purposes, increasing funding to purchase cybersecurity software that would protect school data and increase network resiliency, as well as help strengthen "information sharing between schools, law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity experts to prevent future cyberattacks," said Harder. 

Harder, who serves on the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, also said that the act would seek to foster cyberworkforce development by establishing programs, like scholarships and apprenticeships for students interested in the field.

“Even before the pandemic, we saw schools in the Valley become victims of cyberattacks — with more students learning from home, we need to take even more proactive steps to protect them,” said Harder, in a statement. “Everyone agrees we need to protect our schoolkids, but that doesn’t just mean physical safety. 

Schools, which have always been especially vulnerable to cyberattacks, have faced a whole new set of cybersecurity challenges since COVID-19 migrated entire school systems to remote learning. In April, the FBI published a PSA that outlined some of these new threats — which have included hacker compromise of ed tech.

Historically, schools have also been one of the biggest targets for ransomware attackers, a trend that hasn't slowed down since the pandemic.

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.