CANHEIT-ARC 2019: Canada’s higher education IT communities coming together to “meet in the middle”

Last month, several of ORION’s executive staff traveled to Winnipeg, MB, to attend the CANHIET-ARC 2019 conference. This conference is held once a year somewhere in Canada and acts a gathering place for Canada’s higher education IT communities including representatives from Universities, Colleges, technical institutes and Advanced Research Computing (ARC) facilitiesThe four days brought panels, sessions, and keynotes about the latest trends, strategies, and stories from the Canadian IT world on topics ranging from diversity to cybersecurity to collaborative projects. 

While we learned from the sessions and panels, we also participated in themWe have played key role in some recent developments in higher education security and are recognizing the connectivity struggle of our Northern communities, so we thought we should share our experience. In this post, we will look back at the conference discussions we participated in or found interesting for Ontario’s research and education IT community.

Connecting Canada’s Northern Research and Education Community 

Our own Delilah Moysich moderated panel discussion about connecting northern and rural communities in Canada as an extension of ORION’s goal to improve connectivity in Ontario’s NorthWe know that those in northern and rural communities face many challenges when it comes to broadband access and wrote about them in last year’s report, Connecting Northern Ontario’s Research and Education Community. Population density and geography, local expertise, and the sheer cost of these services for rural communities are some of the prominent concerns. However, there are also many opportunities for these communities if they can be connected, bringing much-needed remote education, research into climate change, and economic development 

L2R: Delilah Moysich, ORION; Jason Panter, Aurora College; Katie Tuck, Yukon College; and Kiley Bender, MERLIN.

Panelists brought forward some success stories that they had encountered in the work of connecting their rural communities. Digital literacy programs enabled communities to become more familiar with the technology. Online learning provides students who live too far from campuses with new ways to attend class. The Yukon territory has quadrupled connectivity in the last whileIn the end, most agreed that collaboration was a key factor in these successes. 

As part of Canada’s national research and education networks, we have a role in connecting rural communities. Educational facilities in almost every community could be connected to ensure that all have equitable access to the resources they need. Some communities host research stations, especially in the far north, that study climate change and wildlife who need the bandwidth to transmit the data they gather as that information is important on a global scale. It is critical that these connections be established for these communities. 

Lessons Learned from the Shared CISO Pilot and the Way Forward 

Farooq Naiyer recently posted a blog post that wrapped up our two-year shared Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) pilot program and the lessons we learned from participating in the program. He’s also shared these lessons with communities around Canada, including the Ontario Council College Chief Information Officer (OCCCIO) conference earlier in June alongside ORION’s Chief Information Officer (CIO)David Smith, as well as John Levay, the CIO from Niagra College At CANHEIT-ARC 2019, he paired up with Luc Roy, the CIO from Laurentian University, to talk about this initiative 

Farooq Naiyer and Luc Roy presenting the Shared CISO pilot

Luc and Farooq went over the shared CISO pilot offeringhow it developed, and the lessons they learned. They outlined the benefits of the program, including the price of services offered compared to a dedicated CISO. Finally, they introduced its transition into ORION’s newest shared cybersecurity service, the Ontario Cybersecurity Higher Education Consortium (ON-CHEC). Many representatives of Canada’s NREN attended the CANHEIT-ARC session. We want to ensure that others across the country have the information that we learned from the pilot program so that they can apply it in their own regionsWere extremely pleased to see so much interest around this program as we continue in our goal to support the cybersecurity posture of Canada’s research and education sector.

Session Highlights 

Many attended the women in IT lunch on Thursday June 20, 2019

Boosting Canada’s Digital Research Infrastructure 

This session presented by Mark Leggott (who also presented at Advance Ontario) was about the overall landscape of Canada’s digital research infrastructure (DRI)As part of their effort to improve the management of research data in Canada, Research Data Canada has been supporting more open research data, and the practices and discussions underway in doing so. Mark also discussed the latest in Canada’s DRI strategy, including providing a timeline for how the new funds acquired for this strategy will be used in the upcoming years. The updated timeline outlined that the key bodies are to be created by December this yearan inaugural Board meeting and hiring of CEO in January-March 2020staff hired and priorities defined in April-June 2020, strategic and operational plans by December 2020, and an investment framework created and integrated key national services in January-March 2021.

Procuring Security Infrastructure Across Multiple Jurisdictions 

This panel discussed the lessons learned from the first procurement for a national Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) infrastructure that took place across Canada’s NREN and the support it received from its regional partners, including ORION. The panel discussed the challenges that were faced during this project and how they were tackled by each participant. They also discussed what the plans for each region in the future are, including the implementation of SIEM infrastructure in each region. Learn more about this project and our role in it in this press release.  

IT Governance: The Path to Alignment 

This session was given by Gayleen GrayAVP and CTO at McMaster University, and a member of ORION’s board of directors. It is important the right people oversee IT systems and can take part in the planning and decision making about the system. She outlined the five major aspects of proper IT governance.

  1. Principles – Collaboration and transparency are some of the important principles 
  2. Lessons – Keep it simple, be administrative, and keep calm 
  3. Communication channels – Create a wiki for reference, create a newsletter to keep your audience up to date, and take the opportunities to communicate in person when you can 
  4. Dashboards – Keep track of your projects and investments and be detailed
  5. Absolute – Ensure you have executive leader support 

The CanSSOC Proof of Concept 

The Canadian Shared Security Operations Centre (CanSSOC) has been conducting a proof on concept program that has been running since July of last year. The panel examined what had happened during the proof of concept and its successes and how it will conclude later this year. The goal of CanSSOC is to provide cost-effect threat detection and protection through a blocking process powered by machine learning. Several institutions participated In the program, including some of our constituents (McMaster University, Ryerson University, University of Toronto)Wlook forward to seeing the results of this proof of concept at its completion this December.

CUCCIO Innovation Awards 

Gayleen Gray receiving the 2019 CUCCIO Community Award

On Thursday, June 20, an awards ceremony was held by CUCCIO that celebrated innovation in the higher education IT from across the country. Gayleen Gray, who we mentioned earlier, was awarded with the 2019 CUCCIO Community award. This award recognizes an individual who CUCCIO believes was a role model of the the higher education IT community. Someone who went above and beyond to improve their digital community. Congratulations Gayleen!! 

The CUCCIO Security Special Interest Group (SSIG) also won an award for creating an information security incident response guide. Ontario played a significant part with Jeff Gardiner, the current CISO of Carleton University (formerly at the University of Western Ontario) taking the lead author roleThe project, organized by Kevin VadnaisManager of Information Management and Security at the University of Lethbridge, AB,was also supported by Jason Testart, the Information Security Services Director at the University of Waterloo. The guide will support and prepare universities for internal security incidentshelping those who may not have their own response plans and getting all the members up to speed with common language and protocols. Congratulations to the group for this important work and we hope to help them achieve even more in the future as our own Farooq Naiyer joins their ranks this coming year.