ON-CHEC Day 2021: Emerging from the Pandemic Together

Since launching the Ontario Cybersecurity Higher Education Consortium (ON-CHEC) in May 2019, the ON-CHEC community has continued to expand both in size and impact. ON-CHEC is a consortium of Ontario colleges and Universities who come together to strengthen cybersecurity for higher education in Ontario and Nova Scotia. On November 12, 2021, ORION hosted the second annual ON-CHEC Day, with a morning of collaboration, discussion and learning, led by members of the ON-CHEC community. 

The day began bright and early, with members from across Ontario and Nova Scotia gathering virtually to explore questions and conversations around how we can move forward into the new ‘normal’ as a community and in turn, emerge from the pandemic.

Presentations and panels included: 

  • The impact of the transition to cloud service on security together with recommendations from institutions who are working through their own cloud transformations.  
  • Opportunities for increasing diversity in cybersecurity through mentorship, adapting recruitment and building inclusive cultures. 
  • An update on the CUCCIO Benchmarking Project, providing valuable insight into the effects of the pandemic on cybersecurity. 
  • The story of collaboration between Humber College and Seneca College collaborated to create an online Cybersecurity Awareness game for staff and faculty during Cyber Security Awareness Month.   
  • Lastly, a discussion on the range of cybersecurity tools available and in use for higher education. 

Sreenshot of the panelists at ON-CHEC Day.

Screenshot of the panelists on ON-CHEC Day: Nela Petkovic, Sue McGlashan, Brian Devins, Ian Thomson, Michelle Moore, Vanessa Kwende, Chris Russel, Tracy Dallaire, John Tziortzis, Terrence Shipclark, Brian Lesser & Justus Grunow.

Thanks to all of the ON-CHEC members who led or participated in the ON-CHEC Day session, there were three main reoccurring themes which will in turn drive ON-CHEC strategies.  

  • Do what makes the most sense for your institution
    • Every institution is going to have varying needs with adopting their cybersecurity strategies. Ian Thompson, Information Security Officer at Trent University explains, “it’s important to look at the complete landscape, from the ground up, and from there, look at what tools may work effectively for you.” ON-CHEC provides the opportunity to share experiences, successes, and challenges with cybersecurity strategies to learn from one another to decide what may be best for your institution
  • Diversity in cybersecurity starts with making the field less intimidating
    • Tackling the diversity divide goes beyond simply hiring more women in cybersecurity. ON-CHEC members shared their ideas on how collectively, we can work together to bridge this divide. Nela Petkovic, CIO at Wilfred Laurier University, proposes that we, “start early by promoting STEM and mentoring.” In turn, ON-CHEC members can work together to close the divide. 
  • Collaboration is essential
    • ON-CHEC Day is just one of the venues for collaboration, information and problem solving. As Colin Couchman, Director of Information Technology at Western University shared in his closing message reflecting on ON-CHEC Day, “discussing our various cybersecurity strategies and getting comfortable with that is very important. This assemblage of expertise and these leaders on this call are very important in contributing towards how we solve the problem. Our strength is going to be in our numbers.” 

ON-CHEC enhances cybersecurity teams through expert guidance, shared frameworks, updates on the threat landscape and best practices as well as knowledge management and continuity. All ON-CHEC members are active participants, leveraging the expertise of the group to solve cybersecurity challenges together, while building much-needed skills within member organizations. Working together, we strengthen our individual and collective cybersecurity postures across Ontario’s Higher Education sector. 

What participants said about ON-CHEC Day:

I found ON-CHEC Day to be a valuable component of the ON-CHEC program.

— 88% of attendees

After ON-CHEC Day, I have a greater understanding of other consortium members’ cybersecurity challenges and expertise.”

— 90% of attendees

Thanks to ON-CHEC Day, I am more likely to collaborate and share with other members of the consortium.

— 97% of attendees