As the wife of an U.S. Air Force veteran, our family journey began in a West German village during the height of the Cold War. The Armed Forces Network (AFN) television station commercials focused on Operations Security (OPSEC) and Communications Security (COMSEC). These 1980’s commercials were very hokey, but serious at the same time: “Remember to destroy your typewriter ribbon, because spies will rummage through your trash, take the typewriter ribbon, and have all your written correspondence for the last month,” and “Loose lips sink ships.” Fast-forward 35 years, and the commercials still ring true with today’s technology. Spies or thieves could rummage through your data and look at your cyber conversations.
So what would you do, if your school computer screen – and some of your colleagues’ — flashed in bold red: “Your computer is being held for ransom; pay $10,000 within 24 hours, or all your data will be lost”?
Due to these modern threats, the President recently elevated cybersecurity to the full, unified U.S. Cyber Command. That means it’s on par with units like the Special Operations Command.
Finding cybersecurity grants to protect your schools, students and facilities may sound daunting at first, but with the following tips, some research and a few tools, you will be on your way to securing your cyber assets.
School Cybersecurity Starts with Leadership
Cybersecurity leadership follows basic leadership principles. Hire the correct information technology (IT) specialist who is versed is securing your department’s information technology infrastructure.
An IT specialist can connect all of your technology platforms into one simple to use product, but if the specialist is not experienced in cybersecurity, hackers, viruses and other malware can infect your entire IT system. It is like buying an exotic plant — such as a $5,000 Rothschild’s orchid — and providing it the level of care an inexperienced person might for a gifted supermarket orchid.
- Find a local agency that has a cybersecurity benchmark or best practices platform.
- Pick some counterparts’ brains and find out how they secured their IT systems.
- Review online resources like org and CSFI.us for practical guidance.
School Cybersecurity Requires Funding
As with other needs that may not be addressed in the regular school or district budget, grants offer a chance to fund cybersecurity projects. A good first stop for cybersecurity grants is to visit grants.gov.
For instance, the Training-Based Workforce Development for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure opportunity is for preparing school cybersecurity. The grant can pay for the cutting-edge technology needed to implement sound cybersecurity.
In the “Search: Enter Keyword” space, type “cybersecurity” or “cyber security.” I found more than 300 grant opportunities listed. To weed out the unimportant files, use the site’s “sort by” function to whittle the list down to a manageable size.
Educationgrantshelp.com should also be a regular pit-stop for finding and securing cybersecurity grants.
Public libraries often offer access to their Foundationcenter.org service for free, but your searches for cybersecurity foundation grants must be done at the library. Many foundations support school IT infrastructure; for example, Cisco Foundation issues grants to “increase access to education and technology.”
Try these tips and strategies to prepare school cybersecurity, keep the hackers out of school data and stop them from holding school cyber assets hostage.
About the Author
Dr. Judy Riffle owns Santa Cruz Grants & Consulting, LLC, and has raised 17 million dollars for various schools, school districts, and nonprofits. Funded grants include public school/charter school entitlement grants such as ESEA Consolidated, IDEA Basic, and Title III LEP. She is a former K-12 teacher, education specialist, new teacher mentor, and administrator with degrees in special education, Deaf education, and educational leadership. Besides being a member of the Grant Professionals Foundation (GPF) Board of Directors, she also chairs the GPF Marketing Committee, and serves on the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Grant News Publications Subcommittee.