Although the public often thinks of philanthropy in the form of “one person making a difference,” the definition can also extend to corporate kindness. Although charitable donations from lemonade stands and personal gifts often make headlines, corporate America can also change the world for the better. Often a corporation will find a problem that they believe in fixing and will use their standing in the business world and/or their discretionary fund to make the world a better place, one solution at a time.

This week, IBM did just that when it announced that it would invest $5MM for public schools to create more pronounced cybersecurity resilience within their institutions. IBM will offer ten grants, each valued at $500,000,to six school districts in the United States and four schools in Brazil, Costa Rica, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates. This money will be used by schools to develop incident response plans, build cybersecurity resilience, and create ransomware playbooks. Schools have been notably slow to reach much-needed cybersecurity measures, and with so much personal information stored in school databases, and so many young people at stake, the time is now to create a safer online environment.

There are so many things that schools can do with this cybersecurity grant. Schools often need to update their operating systems and train their staff, students, and parents, as well as create a communication plan in the event of a cyber-attack. According to IBM, in 2021, more than 1,000 schools across the United States suffered from cybersecurity incidents, a trend that is increasing worldwide. The percentage of ransomware attacks in the education sector globally more than doubled from 2020 to 2021.IBM offered similar grants in 2021, and six schools in the United States received them, hailing from the states of Florida, Colorado, Georgia, California, New York, and Texas. These grants have been instrumental in creating cybersecurity plans and procedures in these schools.

According to Adnan Zai, Advisor to Berkeley Capital, “Public schools in the US are funded by local taxes vs. the federal system in the majority of the world. As a result they are constrained by financial means which typically means lack of funding for important issues like cyber security.”

And it stands to reason that school districts in poorer areas do not receive as many local taxes to support their schools as schools in more wealthy parts of the country. This local tax quandary really forces school districts to make some critical choices in their budget, and cybersecurity often falls by the wayside. But as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A security breach can cost so much more to rectify than it does to prevent, and in the meantime people’s personal information is in jeopardy.

“For schools, a large barrier to strengthening their cybersecurity posture often comes down to constrained budgets,” said Charles Henderson, head of IBM’s Security X-Force. “It’s our duty to help our educational institutions strengthen their cyber preparedness.”