Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at the White House’s Summit, Back to School Safely: Cybersecurity for K-12 Schools, on August 8, 2023.
Good morning. Thank you, Secretary Cardona, Dr. Biden. Thank you for convening us and for hosting us. I should say, at the very outset that I have always always loved school ... except math.
All of us here today are acutely aware of how demanding it is to work in education. The challenges that students, teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, front office staff, tech support, and outside vendors even, confront every day would have been unfathomable even five years ago. Cybersecurity threats are merely the latest such challenge.
I wish that were not the case. The education ecosystem, like critical care units in hospitals, should be sacrosanct, free from cyberattacks and other threats. Children deserve the ability to learn and grow in a secure setting, and you all deserve the ability to focus on what you do best: teaching, nurturing, caring for, and inspiring our children.
The reality, though, is that the cyber threats we face have expanded to every community and every institution across our country, including schools. That is why we at the Department of Homeland Security, alongside our partners across the Biden-Harris administration, are committed to providing communities and school systems with the support and the resources necessary to protect themselves, their infrastructure, and their students.
Earlier this year, we released, through CISA, our Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – and its extraordinary leader, Jen Easterly, is here – a free, first-of-its-kind cybersecurity toolkit for K-12 institutions, compiling government resources, and offering guidance on how stakeholders can best implement them.
We're also working closely with technology manufacturers to ensure that what they provide to school systems is secure by design, secure right out of the box. And to paraphrase President Biden, we are showing our values not only in our words and in our actions, but in our budgets as well.
And, to paraphrase President Biden, we are showing our values not only in our words and in our actions, but in our budgets as well. Earlier today, we put out a new call for applications to our State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program, which for the second year in a row will make hundreds of millions of dollars available to school districts and governments to harden their cyber defenses.
We have many, many other means of support available to you from teams across our federal government, and our colleagues will highlight many of them for you throughout this summit. I want to strongly urge every school system in every community to take advantage of these resources and to do so with urgency. Do not underestimate the ruthlessness of those who wish to do us harm. They have proven their willingness to steal and release such private student information has psychiatric hospitalizations, home struggles, and suicide attempts. Do not wait until crisis comes to start preparing for one. An ounce ... [applause]
That applause was prompted by our Deputy National Security Advisor, friend and colleague, Anne Neuberger.
An ounce of prevention today is worth a pound of cure tomorrow, especially when an ounce of prevention enables you to spend more time on what really matters: the education and well-being of our students.
I join First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Secretary Cardona in thanking you for being here. I thank you for your commitment to our children in our schools and to building a better tomorrow. Our Deputy National Security Advisor Anne will kick off the rest of the summit.
Thank you so much.