Representative Josh Harder recently introduced the Protecting Students from Cybercrimes Act, a bill which would provide grants to help local school districts harden their cybersecurity infrastructure to protect their students. It also creates funding for apprenticeships and career opportunities for students interested in careers in cybersecurity. Although schools are planning to reopen in the fall, some students will have the option to continue partial distance learning. This will leave students even more exposed to possible hackers.
“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 Rep. Harder. “Everyone agrees we need to protect our schoolkids, but that doesn’t just mean physical safety.”
“The School Cybercrime Protection and Preparedness Act would provide us with the opportunity to shore up our defenses against a growing and real problem for school districts,” said Scott Siegel, Superintendent, Ceres Unified School District. “Building local expertise and strengthening communications between educators and law enforcement are excellent approaches. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of apprenticeships and career opportunities for our students in this emerging field.”
Ed Felt, former Superintendent of the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, added: “This legislation provides much needed federal support for schools in their efforts to prevent and offset the cost of cybersecurity and prepares the next generation of students to pursue cybersecurity careers by establishing scholarships and apprenticeships for students interested in this field.”
The Protecting Students from Cybercrimes Act would provide $25 million in cybersecurity grants over the next five years for school districts across the country. The grants can be applied to increasing network resiliency and keeping sensitive information safe by adopting and installing cybersecurity software, strengthening information sharing between schools, law enforcement agencies, and cybersecurity experts to prevent future cyberattacks, supports schools in their efforts to offset the cost of cybersecurity attacks, and prepares the next generation of students to pursue cybersecurity careers by establishing programs, such as scholarships and apprenticeships, for students interested in this field.
Last year, Sylvan Union School District in Modesto was the victim of a cyberattack. The district estimated the total cost for containing the damage and hardening systems to exceed $1 million. Cyberattacks on schools are on the rise and the increased reliance on digital systems as a result of social distancing protocols has made school system networks even more vulnerable.