Creating a Council to Address School Cybersecurity: U.S. Department of Education and CISA Join Forces

The U.S. Department of Education and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) have joined forces to establish a new federal council aimed at enhancing cybersecurity in K-12 schools nationwide. The Government Coordinating Council (GCC) for the Education Facilities Subsector, designated as one of the critical infrastructure sectors by the federal government, will engage in regular and structured communications with federal, state, local, and tribal governments to share best practices, as stated in a recent news release.

This initiative comes in response to the increasing complexity of cybersecurity threats facing K-12 schools, including ransomware attacks that have disrupted school operations and compromised sensitive information of students, educators, and families. Cindy Marten, U.S. deputy secretary of education, emphasized the significance of the GCC in safeguarding the cybersecurity of the nation’s schools, highlighting the importance of cooperation between various levels of government and educational leaders.

The launch of the GCC follows the “Back to School Safely” K-12 Cybersecurity Summit held at the White House in August, during which key measures were outlined to enhance data protection in schools through grants, public awareness campaigns, and partnerships with educational technology companies and advocacy groups. While the U.S. Department of Education and CISA coordinated the launch, input from technology leaders, school administrators, and officials from state and educational service agencies helped shape the strategy and direction of the GCC.

CISA Director Jen Easterly commended the collaborative efforts of the Department of Education and CISA in prioritizing cybersecurity in K-12 education, underscoring the critical role of the newly established Government Coordinating Council in fostering a secure learning environment nationwide. Though the GCC is a recent development, the Executive Branch has long held the responsibility of protecting schools as critical infrastructure, in accordance with Presidential Policy Directive 21.

The directive emphasizes the importance of proactive and coordinated efforts to fortify and sustain secure critical infrastructure that is pivotal to public confidence, national safety, prosperity, and well-being. The Education Facilities Subsector, falling under the Government Facilities Sector delineated in the directive, plays a crucial role in safeguarding essential services essential to American society.

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