Alberta post-secondaries come together to fight cybersecurity threats

To combat rising cybersecurity threats to education and research organizations, Alberta’s 26 post-secondary institutions (PSIs) are teaming up to collectively share information and strategies to enhance the security and privacy of their digital assets. Facilitated by Cybera, this first-of-its-kind collaboration will not only save time and money for individual organizations looking to tackle these issues, it will also spur a community approach to addressing next-generation threats and problems.

The first step of the Alberta PSI cybersecurity collaboration will be to benchmark current and projected issues and needs in the province. This will allow the group to identify opportunities and gaps in technical skills and infrastructure, while working towards a more cohesive solution.

To this end, the institutions have joined a national benchmarking initiative offered by the Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers (CUCCIO). Each member will evaluate themselves using the BitSight Continuous Monitoring Service, which reviews infrastructure for issues such as botnet infections and out-of-date systems, and provides an overall security rating.

“Having all 26 post-secondary institutions in Alberta participating in this first step is an amazing outcome, and shows our commitment to tackling these challenges together,” says Barb Carra, president and CEO of Cybera. “The Bitsight benchmarking is just one of the programs we’ll be collectively moving forward. We’ve also set up a steering committee and a technical working committee with the PSIs, to pursue other collaborative security opportunities.” 

“The frequency and complexity of cybersecurity threats continue to increase at an unprecedented rate, and the ability of many education institutions to mitigate these threats independently is becoming unsustainable,” says Brian Stewart, Deputy CIO of Information Services and Technology at the University of Alberta. “While previous security efforts and projects were often reactive — focusing on fixes after-the-fact — a more effective approach is to develop a longer-term intentional strategy. It is reassuring to see Alberta moving forward in this direction.”

The overall goals of the cross-Alberta cybersecurity collaboration are to:

  • Reduce the number and severity of cyberinfrastructure exploits
  • Improve the collective maturity of the post-secondary sector’s security posture
  • Reduce the cost of security
  • Enhance the use of new security tools, techniques and practices
  • Increase security skill sets within PSIs and access to security expertise
  • Improve security awareness and planning

For more information on this and other Cybera cybersecurity initiatives, contact security@cybera.ca.