WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, recently joined President Joe Biden at the White House for the signing of Peters’ K-12 Cybersecurity Act.
Biden signed the bipartisan bill into law on Oct. 8, which will “help educational institutions bolster their cybersecurity protections by instructing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to examine the risks and challenges that schools face in securing their systems,” according to a news release. “Using their findings, CISA is charged with creating cybersecurity recommendations and other voluntary resources for schools to use when implementing their cybersecurity solutions.”
The bill was introduced by Peters, who is also chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on May 27. Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, along with Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada were cosponsors on the bill.
“As malicious cybercriminals continue to target the network of K-12 schools across the nation, the federal government needs to provide them with the resources needed to protect themselves from hackers,” Peters said in a statement. “I’m grateful to President Biden for signing this important, bipartisan bill into law so our nation’s cybersecurity experts can better understand school specific risks and help safeguard the information technology systems of K-12 schools, as well as the personal information of our dedicated educators, students, and school staff.
“As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I’ll continue leading efforts to fight back against cyber-attacks that disrupt lives and livelihoods and hold foreign adversaries and cybercriminals accountable for targeting American networks.”
According to Peters’ office, cyber-attacks on schools increased over the past year as a majority of learning environments switched to an online format at one point or another during the pandemic. This included attacks against schools in Michigan, Peters’ office said.
“In one attack on Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, hackers successfully accessed records and posted information online,” the news release states. “In 2018, Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools in Michigan were targeted by a malicious ransomware attack that temporarily shut down the district’s systems. In Florida, hackers successfully stole thousands of files from Broward County’s School District systems earlier this year.
“The K-12 Cybersecurity Act directs CISA to work with teachers, school administrators, other federal departments and private sector organizations to complete a study of cybersecurity risks specific to K-12 educational institutions, including risks related to securing sensitive student and employee records and challenges related to remote learning. Following the completion of that study, the law directs CISA to develop cybersecurity recommendations and an online toolkit to help schools improve their cybersecurity hygiene. These voluntary tools would be made available on the Department of Homeland Security website along with other DHS school safety information.”
The bill has been endorsed by many organizations, including the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, the Michigan Association of School Boards, the Consortium for School Networking, the School Superintendents Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the American Federation of Teachers.
The bill can be viewed at www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1917.
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