The importance of industry collaboration to bolster the K-12 cybersecurity talent pipeline

What are the issues we are facing in K-12 schools? 

As the U.S. stares down an increased cybersecurity threat landscape, K-12 schools are under cyberattack.

Schools house tremendous amounts of student information and many IT departments are underfunded and under-resourced, making them prime targets for attack. Between 2018 and 2021, around 2.6 million students were affected by ransomware. Younger students are often heavily targeted due to their lack of cybersecurity knowledge and district resources to educate at the grade school level how to protect themselves and be good digital citizens.

Today, both students and district staff need to be engaged and practice good cyber hygiene to protect themselves, our schools, and ultimately the nation from the next cyberattack.

To address these issues, CYBER.ORG recognizes that educators play a foundational role in preparing the next generation of professionals to solve the nation’s cyber talent workforce shortage of over 755,000 cybersecurity professionals.

This starts by utilizing the no-cost resources from CYBER.ORG in the classroom.

What is CYBER.ORG? 

CYBER.ORG is a cybersecurity workforce development organization that targets K-12 students with cyber career awareness, curricular resources, and teacher professional development. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security supports CYBER.ORG through the Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program (CETAP) grant from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to develop and distribute cybersecurity education content to educators around the country at no cost. Currently, more than 27,000 teachers across all 50 states and in three U.S. territories are enrolled in the CYBER.ORG content platform. CISA’s support is critical for the national approach to advancing the nation’s cybersecurity posture and diversifying the talent pipeline, and CYBER.ORG is proud of the long-standing partnership.

How can all employees in K-12 schools work with CISA and CYBER.ORG to help solve these problems? 

Employees in the K-12 school system can use resources and tools created by CISA to help safeguard against cyber-attacks and help prevent future ones from occurring. School employees can familiarize themselves with:

Additionally, schools should consider joining the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) to enhance threat intelligence sharing among K-12 schools and other government entities helping strengthen the resilience of all members.  

While CISA creates resources geared towards IT and administration staff at various levels, CYBER.ORG creates K-12 resources to teach students how to be good digital citizens and provide teachers with professional development tools. CYBER.ORG understands K-8 students need support to learn how to navigate the digital world and offers a variety of courses, including Cybersecurity Basics, which provides all K-12 students with the basics on how to secure their data and be good digital citizens.

At the 9-12th grade level, CYBER.ORG has courses like Cyber Society, Intro to Cybersecurity, and Cybersecurity, which help students understand more technical and rigorous concepts of dealing with their digital world while also preparing them to become real-world cybersecurity professionals.

These courses utilize the grant-funded CYBER.ORG Range where students access multiple virtual machines in a safe, sandboxed environment to practice real-world cyberattacks so they can gain hands-on experience in the life of a cybersecurity professional.  

Does it really take everyone? 

Yes. To address the issues at hand and mitigate future threats, everyone has a role to play to protect students and the nation’s cybersecurity posture. Together, CYBER.ORG and CISA are deploying no-cost resources that are accessible to all K-12 school systems to help solve these issues.