The U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity at UC Berkeley are launching a partnership aimed at tightening the cyber defenses of K-12 schools. The new initiative, named the Partnership for Advancing Cybersecurity in Education (PACE), will bring together education technology vendors and cybersecurity experts to bolster the digital infrastructure used in schools across the nation.

Big picture: By promoting secure-by-design principles and addressing product vulnerabilities, PACE aims to make digital tools safer and more resilient against attacks.

Why it matters: Schools have become hotspots for cyberattacks, with about 55 percent of data breaches in the K-12 sector between 2016 and 2021 targeting edtech vendors. The rise of tech adoption during the pandemic has only increased these vulnerabilities.

By the numbers: A recent survey of school administrators by Clever found that one-third of districts report a lack of dedicated cybersecurity personnel as their biggest challenge.

  • Furthermore, 80% of administrators are concerned about phishing attacks and half of the districts have recently updated their security protocols for vendors, reflecting the pressing need for robust cybersecurity measures.

What’s next: The PACE EdTech Summit in October 2024 will bring together cybersecurity experts, edtech vendors, and education leaders to discuss implementing “secure-by-design” principles. These principles include integrating robust security features like multi-factor authentication and single sign-on into products at no extra cost to schools. The summit will also explore long-term strategies to address prevalent vulnerabilities in educational technology.