The U.S. Department of Education is partnering with University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC) on the Partnership for Advancing Cybersecurity in Education (PACE), an initiative designed to improve the cybersecurity posture of K-12 digital infrastructure by enabling collaboration between education technology vendors and cybersecurity experts.

“By uniting the expertise of cybersecurity professionals with the innovation of key edtech vendors, we can help proactively address cyber vulnerabilities before they lead to ransomware attacks that disrupt students’ learning, school operations, and compromise sensitive student data,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten.

“This partnership will develop actionable insights to enhance the resilience of the edtech sector, ensuring that our educational tools are not only effective but secure,” Marten said. “By focusing on securing the edtech products that all school districts need for their operations, PACE can help to drive cybersecurity benefits at scale for the 14,000 school districts and the millions of students they serve across the U.S.”

CLTC and Department of Education officials said that the PACE initiative is aligned with the Federal government’s 2023 National Cybersecurity Strategy, which calls on the “most capable and best-positioned actors” to “rebalance the responsibility to defend cyberspace to better shield under-resourced organizations from cyber threats.” PACE addresses the strategy’s calls by bringing together Federal and state government and industry stakeholders to address some of the key cybersecurity challenges facing K-12 schools and districts.

“We are proud to lead this critical partnership between UC Berkeley CLTC and the Department of Education. No student or parent should have to worry about their sensitive information being leaked online,” says Sarah Powazek, Program Director of Public Interest Cybersecurity at CLTC.

“This partnership will help protect U.S. schools by strengthening the technology products they most depend on,” she said. “By collaborating with a few upstream vendors, we have the potential to help K-12 institutions better defend against ransomware attacks that disrupt school operations and compromise sensitive student data.”

Later this year, CLTC and the Education Department will hold the PACE EdTech Summit. The summit will bring together cybersecurity experts, edtech vendors, and key edtech stakeholders to discuss the cybersecurity of edtech products, the benefits of secure-by-design principles, and create a path forward for addressing product vulnerabilities that will improve the security of K-12 digital infrastructure.

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