Experts believe AI could help prevent some cybersecurity attacks in schools

WASHINGTON — Cybersecurity experts say artificial intelligence may be the key to preventing some ransomware attacks at K-12 schools.

This comes as school systems have reported roughly 1,619 ransomware attacks between 2016 and 2022, according to K12 Security Information Exchange (K12 SIX) which is a national cybersecurity non-profit organization.

Officials say these attacks led to more than just canceled classes and financial losses.

“They’ve resulted in the publication of some incredibly sensitive information about students, about parents and about educators themselves,” said Doug Levin, Director of K12 SIX.

Levin said artificial intelligence is a promising new solution.

“One of the benefits of AI is that they can be that set of virtual eyes on the school networks when the IT staff are not able to do that,” he said.

He explains that some vendors are incorporating AI into tools that schools are already using.

“Not only can [AI] keep their eyes on the network, they can actually take proactive steps to help defend those networks from cyber criminals who are trying to penetrate their systems and steal valuable data about students and teachers,” said Levin.

But he warns some of these high-tech upgrades may come at a major cost.

“In some ways, it’s going to save schools for having to invest maybe in more IT professionals dedicated to security,” he said. “At another level, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the prices for these solutions to continue to rise.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education created a new federal council to help school districts prepare for, respond to and recover from cybersecurity attacks.

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