School districts across the United States are under siege from malicious hackers and face steep challenges to mounting an effective defense. Especially in a time of heightened remote learning due to COVID-19, states, local governments, and school districts are not equipped to face the cybersecurity challenge alone. There have been nearly 700 publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents in school districts since 2019, with Baltimore County, Maryland and Huntsville, Alabama schools the latest victims of ransomware attacks.
One cost-effective way that K-12 administrators and district IT leaders can increase their resilience to such attacks is by collaborating to share cybersecurity warning and best practices with trusted peers. Global Resilience Federation, a creator of and hub for information sharing communities, recently launched the national, non-profit Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Security Information Exchange (K12 SIX).
K12 SIX operates like an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) and enables public school districts and private school organizations to securely work together against current and emerging threats from ransomware attacks, phishing campaigns and systems vulnerabilities, among other risks. K12 SIX has begun onboarding new members and is now pleased to announce the addition of two new staff.
Douglas Levin, founder of the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center and creator of the K-12 Cyber Incident Map, joins K12 SIX as its National Director. Levin formerly served as executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association and has spent his career working at the intersection of education, technology, and public policy. He is the author of the widely-cited “State of K-12 Cybersecurity” annual report series and regularly speaks on educational technology trends.
Eric Lankford joins K12 SIX as Regional Director. Formerly a cybersecurity engineer with Birdville Independent School District, he brings twenty years of experience in information security. An advocate of advancing cybersecurity maturity for K12, he serves as a leader for change in the space, having led the call for security collaboration among school districts since 2018. Lankford is also an NYU Cyber Fellow at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
Together Levin and Lankford will continue to evangelize for better cybersecurity risk management practices in the K-12 sector and provide important guidance to the intelligence exchanging community to help secure schools and keep students, families, and educators safe.
“I’ve been tracking the growth in attacks in this sector since 2016,” said Levin. “We’ve seen a marked increase over time, and a real spike since COVID-19. I’m glad to be joining an action-oriented organization that is working to proactively protect schools.”
As the K12 SIX membership grows, so does security awareness for the entire community. If one school finds itself targeted by phishing or malware attacks, it can warn others. The larger the community, the greater its ability to detect and respond to emerging threats. In addition to member contributions, K12 SIX staff review, enrich and disseminate actionable alerts based on intelligence from private security vendors, other sharing communities, and government sources. Biweekly calls with security analysts allow members to ask for and receive guidance.
“I’m thrilled we finally have a place to work together against malicious actors,” added Lankford. “Cybersecurity information sharing communities have been around for years; I saw their value for other sectors and have been promoting the concept for K-12 education. This is a good day. If there is any hope of keeping pace with malicious actors, districts must share warning, mitigation advice and best practices at a rate greater than our adversaries.”
For more information on the threat and the proposed path forward, watch “The State of K-12 Cybersecurity” panel discussion: https://www.k12six.org/the-threat. K12 SIX is providing a free one-year membership to the first 100 school districts that join. Contact email@example.com for details.
About K12 SIX
Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Security Information Exchange (K12 SIX) is a cyber and physical threat intelligence sharing hub for school districts, to aid in preventing and mitigating attacks. This non-profit member community is a cost-effective forum for crowdsourcing security information among a vetted, trusted group of professionals with a common interest, using common technology and with supporting, independent analysis from the K12 SIX security staff. Visit www.k12six.org to learn more. K12 SIX is a member of the Global Resilience Federation multi-sector network of information sharing communities.
The K12 SIX secure collaboration platform was co-built with Cyware Labs, which has committed significant resources to support the community.