IBM selected six school districts to receive its IBM Education Security Preparedness Grant, which totals $3 million. The in-kind grant was created to help United States K-12 public school districts proactively prepare for and respond to cyberattacks.

With nearly 1,700 schools, colleges and universities in the U.S. impacted by ransomware in 2020, cyber preparedness is an important part of any school's focus. Each grant will sponsor IBM Service Corps teams to deploy to the selected districts and provide in-kind security services with a value of $500,000.

The organization selected grant recipients based on their cybersecurity needs and experiences, community resources and potential risks. The six school districts that will be receiving the in-kind grants are:

  • Brevard Public Schools – Viera, Florida
  • Poughkeepsie City School District – Poughkeepsie, New York
  • KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Sheldon Independent School District – Houston, Texas
  • Newhall School District – Valencia, California
  • Denver Public Schools – Denver, Colorado

After announcing the grant last February, IBM received more than 250 applications from U.S. K-12 school districts seeking to strengthen their security postures in response to the growing threats on the education space. In total, the applications represented more than 7,800 schools and more than 4 million students and provided noteworthy insights from school districts across the nation.

Key findings from the applications included:

  • Disparity in cybersecurity budgets: 50% of the districts had less than $100,000 for cybersecurity spending – for the entire school district. This is in comparison to larger school districts that cited cybersecurity budgets in the millions.
  • Ransomware attacks: More than 40% of applicants experienced a ransomware attack.
  • Security training: More than 55% of school districts are operating without security training.

The grant, created as part of IBM's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, will be an in-kind contribution in the form of resources and hours performed by IBM Service Corps teams of 6-10 people per district. Deployments will begin this summer and services will span developing incident response plans, providing basic cybersecurity training such as password hygiene, implementing strategic communication plans to use in response to a cyber incident and more.