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Creating a Business Case for K-12 Cyber Resilience


The cybersecurity challenges facing K-12 school IT teams have become more complex and the stakes are now higher than ever. As cyber threats grow, the question for school districts isn't just why to invest in cybersecurity, but how to articulate and justify these investments in order to build better cyber resilience.

Recently, we hosted a webinar titled Tangible Strategies for Improving Cyber Resilience in K-12 Schools in partnership with UncommonX to discuss practical strategies for addressing the challenges facing K-12 school IT teams, including how to build an effective business case for cybersecurity funding.

This blog post explores the costs associated with recovering from a cyber attack and a framework for assessing the cybersecurity needs of a school district. It also shares a return-on-investment calculator introduced during the webinar and designed to help IT teams define the costs associated with addressing them.

Understanding the Cost of a Cyber Attack

Recent statistics from the Government Accountability Office's report are alarming: over 600,000 K-12 students were affected by ransomware attacks in 2021 alone. The average cybersecurity incident now costs organizations about $2 million, encompassing direct costs like downtime and ransom payments, as well as indirect costs such as staffing and legal fees. In some cases, the cost is even higher.

This issue is further exacerbated by an overarching underfunding crisis, as K-12 schools in the U.S. face an estimated annual shortfall of $150 billion. For schools, these costs not only represent a financial burden but can disrupt educational processes for months. It is therefore critical that school districts accurately assess the risk and calculate the resources needed to address it.

Calculating Cybersecurity Return on Investment (ROI)

Our partner UncommonX has developed a return-on-investment (ROI) calculator to help K-12 IT leaders articulate the financial logic behind cybersecurity investments. This tool quantifies potential returns on investment by comparing the costs of cyber threats against the investment in cybersecurity solutions. It includes evaluating initial setup fees, ongoing operational costs and the potential financial impact of cyber incidents.

Elements of the ROI Calculator

The calculator uses the following elements to draw a comparison between necessary set-up/operational costs and potential costs associated with a breach:

  1. Initial Costs: Assess the costs for licenses and setup required to deploy cybersecurity solutions.
  2. Operational Costs: Evaluate ongoing expenses related to maintaining and updating cybersecurity measures.
  3. Potential Breach Costs: Estimate the financial impact of cyber incidents without robust cybersecurity.
  4. Analysis: Compare potential breach costs against total cybersecurity investment to highlight ROI.

Building the Business Case

With quantitative data from ROI calculations and qualitative assessments from security frameworks, school IT leaders can present a compelling business case that includes:

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Show the estimated financial benefits of making new cybersecurity investments.
  • Strategic Alignment: Demonstrate how these estimated investments align with broader educational goals.
  • Risk Management: Illustrate how the investments will mitigate specific risks.

Request a Copy of the ROI Spreadsheet

Effective ROI communication can facilitate stakeholder buy-in by demonstrating that the cost of prevention pales in comparison to the expenses associated with recovering from cyber incidents. To learn more about our ROI calculator to help build an effective business case, contact us at

Getting Started

As the 2023-24 school year comes to a close, IT teams have an opportunity to reflect upon the headlines that highlighted an unfortunate increase in cyber attacks on K-12 schools. They also can do something about it to put their schools on the right path to better cyber resilience.

Remaining fiscally responsible in the face of growing cyber threats is critical to protecting our educational environments as well as the students, staff and faculty they serve. By starting now, school districts can assess their current state of cyber resilience against the NIST framework and build a business case for next year.

Our commitment to safeguarding educational institutions remains unwavering. Reach out to find out how we can help you to build an effective ROI business case for your school district today.