UncommonX Blog

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, UncommonX hosted a webinar titled Practical Strategies for Improving School Cyber Resilience in partnership with ACP CreativIT 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.

Rich Pasewark, CEO of UncommonX summarizes the costs of an incident in this snapshot from the recent webinar.

Calculating Cybersecurity Return on Investment (ROI)

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.

In this clip from the recent webinar, Rich highlights two different ROI options provided by UncommonX and ACP CreativIT—costs for an incident, and costs for setting up your own 24/7 SOC vs. partnering with a company like UncommonX that has a 24/7 SOC already available to protect your environment.

Get Your ROI Calculator

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. Get your free copy of our ROI calculator to help build an effective business case. 


Assessing Relative Cyber Risk to Inform ROI

A fundamental component of building an effective business case for IT investment is the implementation of relative risk assessments. These assessments are crucial for understanding the current state of a school's cybersecurity program and setting realistic, achievable targets for improvement.

At UncommonX, we leverage the structured approach of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to conduct these assessments, providing a clear framework for managing and mitigating cyber risks. In fact, the founder of UncommonX was a contributing author to the original framework.

Through this detailed assessment, UncommonX delivers a prioritized set of recommendations that focus on practical, but impactful improvements, empowering IT leaders to make informed decisions that align with their strategic goals and budgets. Combining this with an ROI calculation can inform a strong business case.


Rich and Rod Kahl of ACP CreativIT discuss the benefits of an assessment using the NIST framework in this clip from the webinar.

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.

The commitment of UncommonX and ACP CreativIT to safeguarding educational institutions remains unwavering. Explore our MDR for Education solution or reach out to hello@uncommonx.comto find out how we can help you to build an effective ROI business case for your school district today.

About the Author

Rich Pasewark — CEO, Board Director — Rich brings over 20 years of experience as an executive leader within the technology space with a core focus of aligning product, market requirements, and customer experience to define, implement and execute the company's macro strategy.

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