After stopping virtual lessons due to a ransomware attack late last year, the Newhall School District was named one of six districts across the country that received a cybersecurity grant on Wednesday. of $ 500,000.
District officials said the grant money will be used to improve their computer systems, train staff and families on sound digital security strategies, and the Newhall administration will provide a template for responding to incidents in in case of an attack like the one in September last year.
Ransomware attacks, according to Norton.com, involve antagonistic software that breaches a system and holds data to system administrators and users until a ransom is paid. Distance learning for Newhall District was halted Sept. 14-23, officials said at the time, and parents were temporarily asked to stay out of district technology until the threat was neutralized.
On Wednesday, Superintendent Jeff Pelzel declined to comment on how the district was able to take classes again on Sept. 23, but said the grant money will help deter future incursions.
“Viously, obviously, after going through the cybersecurity gap we had last fall (we had to) get another kind of diagnosis on what the next steps are,” Pelzel said. “The most interesting thing is that then we can share it with our neighboring Santa Clarita Valley districts and say,‘ Hey, that’s what they looked at. ’So our IT manager can share it with other districts as well. “.
Grants, made available to all six school districts (including Newhall District), were made possible through IBM’s educational security readiness grant program. IBM expects these funds, and cybersecurity assessments conducted by technology professionals trained in K-12 public school districts, to help the nearly 1,700 schools, colleges and universities in the United States that were affected by ransomware attacks in 2020.
“Deployments (of IT equipment) will begin this summer and services will cover the development of incident response plans, providing basic training on cybersecurity such as password hygiene, implementing strategic communication plans to use in response to an incident. cybernetics and more, ”IBM officials said in the grants’ announcement.
Pelzel said cybersecurity is connected to the district, providing solid security measures that prevent disruption of learning. He added that improving digital literacy, such as learning how to spot a fishing email or knowing how to set up your passwords and change them regularly, is important for students, staff and parents.
“It will help us educate our staff, our students and parents what to look for, not only in school, but also at home,” Pelzel said. “This is a huge learning tool that becomes a lifelong learning skill around what you should keep in mind.”
“If it doesn’t look good, don’t click on it,” Pelzel added. “I think we’ve learned lessons and made some adjustments and I think it’s kind of the next layer of support.”