Senate Democrats urge government to do more to protect K-12 schools from hackers

A group of Senate Democrats on Friday urged the federal government to do more to protect K-12 institutions and students from crippling cyber attacks, which have wreaked increasing havoc across the country over the past year.

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“K-12 schools need additional support, as evidenced by the growing number of successful cyberattacks at K-12 schools,” the senators wrote.

They noted in particular the need to implement the recommendations outlined in a report published last month by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which recommended that the Department of Education update its plan to protect schools from cyber threats given the changing environment.

Senators urged both the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), to “go beyond” the GAO’s recommendations and establish a Coordinating Council. Government and a Subsectoral Coordinating Council for education. sector.

“These councils would help promote better coordination between federal, state, and local entities and private sector groups that support K-12 schools, and provide a cohesive foundation upon which the Department of Education and CISA can better support the cybersecurity of K-12 schools, ”wrote the senators.

A DHS spokesperson declined to comment on the letter and the Department of Education did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

The letter was sent as attacks on K-12 schools continue to pile up and disrupt learning. The attacks were particularly frequent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many classes moved onto the internet.

The K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center launched a report Earlier this year, K-12 institutions in the US experienced a “record” number of cyberattacks in 2020, with districts including Miami-Dade County, Florida; Baltimore County, Maryland; and Fairfax County, Virginia, among the targets.

Steps have already been taken to protect K-12 institutions from hackers.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden and Xi of China to hold virtual summit on Monday: Briahna Joy Gray reports: Biden ‘plays dumb’ with cancellation of student debt Defense and national security – Biden celebrates Veterans Day MORE last month signed in law Legislation requiring CISA to create cybersecurity resources and tools for K-12 schools to help defend against cyber attacks, with Rosen among the bipartisan sponsors of the bill. Additionally, the infrastructure package Biden will enact next week includes $ 1 billion in state and local cybersecurity funding that could be used to shore up school cybersecurity.

Even with these steps being taken, senators called for even more action as the attacks continue, including requesting that agencies inform their staff by December 17.

“We look forward to working with the Department of Education, DHS, and the administration to support our schools and improve our nation’s cybersecurity,” they wrote.

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