Blog

Snapshot 2022: Empowering Innovation in the Research and Education Community

A message from Alfonso Licata ORION President & CEO

Alfonso Licata

Last year, we collaborated to empower innovation.

As I reflect on 2022, I am filled with gratitude. I want to thank the ORION team for their hard work and dedication to propelling our platform forward. I would also like to thank the research, education, and innovation community for all their work in driving change. We have overcome many challenges together, serving as a testament to the power of connecting and collaborating.

In 2022, we seized many opportunities to innovate.

We are working toward creating a culture of purpose and connection with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We are also committed to advancing our world class research and education network by enhancing our community-driven platform. We are building trusted community partnerships with other organizations to broaden our reach.

Throughout the year, we improved and expanded our platform to support our community better. We invested in upgrades to our network for greater reliability, increased capacity, and better security. ORION launched Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing, a new cybersecurity solution that will enhance the security posture of higher education institutions.

In collaboration with our constituents, we completed the Shared SIEM pilot, hosted ON-CHEC Day 2022, and improved Cybersecurity Awareness Training. We worked toward completing an amalgamation with GTAnet. We strengthened our partnerships with government ministries and partnered with them to host a joint cybersecurity seminar for higher education professionals. In October 2022, we held our THINK Conference where we celebrated ORION’s 20th Anniversary with our community.

We will connect and collaborate to build a better future.

The lessons we learned in 2022 will guide us as we continue our mission to empower innovation in Ontario and beyond. We will leverage the tools and technologies available to foster connection and collaboration. By coming together and leveraging our collective knowledge, we can build a better future for everyone.

I want to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who has been a part of our journey in 2022. I am proud of all we have achieved, and I look forward to everything we will accomplish in the future.

Let us continue to connect and collaborate to empower innovation for many years to come.

Alfonso Licata,

President and CEO

We collaborated with our community to identify three strategic themes that inform our four-year strategy. ORION is focusing on these themes to support the research, education, and innovation community in Ontario.

Creating a Culture of Purpose and Connection

Our commitment to transparency, equity and engagement enables an intentional balance between collaboration, inclusivity, operational excellence, and focus.

Sustaining and Advancing a World Class Research and Education Network

ORION sustains and constantly advances the province’s shared essential research, education, and innovation platform. We protect its value and performance, driven by world-class standards and an ambition for equitable access.

Building Trusted Community Partnerships

ORION connects Ontario’s research, education and innovation ecosystem through trusted, relevant community partnerships. We lead transparent, focused conversations to unify our voices for shared digital infrastructure.

As we embark on a new chapter, we find ourselves reflecting on our remarkable achievements over the past five years. We are proud of our journey, and we are excited to build an even brighter future with our community.

Now let’s take a look at what we achieved for each strategic theme in 2022.

Theme One: Creating a Culture of Purpose and Connection

Committing to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Committing to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

ORION is creating a strategy to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We have championed DEI across our community with a panel at the ORION THINK Conference and a Women in Cybersecurity panel at ON-CHEC Day 2022. 

At THINK, Sheliza Jamal, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Heather Watts shared best practices and challenges as organizations implement DEI programs and policies. Their panel on Strategies to Promote Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Workplace explored how an organization can develop a DEI strategy and the challenges in doing so.  

During ON-CHEC Day 2022, Michelle Moore, Nela Petkovic, Vanessa Kwende, and Sue McGlashan discussed how to close the gender gap in cybersecurity in their panel discussion called Career Paths and Post-Secondary Education for Women in Cybersecurity Part Two. Vanessa Kwende, Security Business Analyst at Humber College, explains that “diverse perspectives lead to better decision-making and problem-solving.” 

Connecting Rural Communities

Over the last few years, ORION has been working with Six Nations Polytechnic to become a connected institution on our platform. They are officially being connected in 2023. This is a significant accomplishment to have the first Indigenous owned and governed institution in Ontario to join the National Research and Education Network (NREN). We are continuing to connect rural communities to bridge the digital divide. 

Sharing with the Community

Ontario Cybersecurity Higher Education Consortium (ON-CHEC)

In our fourth year, Ontario Cybersecurity Higher Education Consortium (ON-CHEC) hosted webinars, working groups, ON-CHEC Day, weekly touchpoint calls, and more.  By leveraging our collective resources and expertise, we have worked together to solve cybersecurity challenges and strengthen the community’s security posture.  

After engaging in conversations with our community, we identified the importance of incident response for higher education. We will support our members, helping them to create incident response plans, playbooks, and policies. We will also provide virtual tabletop exercises to test established incident response plans. Our goal is to work with institutions to better recover from and minimize the impact of cybersecurity incidents. 

ORION THINK Conference

ORION THINK Conference

We were excited to host a hybrid conference, and the theme for this year was forging the future. The THINK Conference took place on October 19 and 20, 2022. There were more than 170 in-person and virtual attendees. We also hosted ORION’s 20th Anniversary party on October 19 where many members of the research, education, and innovation community attended. THINK provided an opportunity for leaders to come together and collaborate, setting the stage for a more sustainable future in the years to come. 

ON-CHEC Day 2022

In November, ORION hosted ON-CHEC Day 2022. Our third annual event focused on how our community can navigate the future of cybersecurity and be leaders in change. We had a panel called Career Paths and Post-Secondary Education for Women in Cybersecurity Part Two and a CIO roundtable discussion. We had another panel about Recruiting and Retaining Cybersecurity Talent in the Higher Education Sector, and a presentation from CIRA on Innovative Approaches to Raising Security Awareness Culture in Higher Education.  

ON-CHEC Day brought awareness to the talent pool provided by the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst program at Toronto Metropolitan University. They train hundreds of new cybersecurity professionals each year. Their training programs enable private and public sector organizations in Ontario to hire top cybersecurity talent quickly. 

There were 73 attendees with 94 percent of them confirming that ON-CHEC Day was a valuable component of the ON-CHEC program. ON-CHEC Day provided an opportunity for institutions to share cybersecurity challenges, discuss innovative ideas, and learn from one another. 

Theme Two: Sustaining and Advancing a World Class Research Education Network

Strengthening and Expanding ORION’s Platform

 

From Local to Global - ORION's Role in Research, Education, and Innovation

 

ORION Upgrades Network to Better Support Our Community

We continue to support the evolving needs of researchers, educators and innovators in Ontario. ORION partnered with CANARIE to invest in upgrades to our network for greater reliability, increased capacity, and better security. We also upgraded our routers in many locations outside of southern urban areas. We are committed to improving the overall reliability of our network and providing higher network speeds in the future.  

Last year, we submitted three Expression of Interest (EOI) proposals to CANARIE that have been accepted. We will use the funding to make performance improvements across our network to increase connectivity. By enhancing our platform, we enable our community to accelerate new discoveries.  

Evolving and Strengthening Cybersecurity for the Community

ORION Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT)

ORION Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT)

With cyber threats on the rise, organizations have a constant need to identify vulnerabilities and secure their infrastructure. Using the lessons learned from our pilot, we developed ORION Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) to help our community avoid costly and time-consuming data breaches. VAPT will provide organizations with a comprehensive assessment of security vulnerabilities and increase their capacity to protect themselves.  

Cybersecurity Initiatives Program (CIP) and National Cybersecurity Assessment (NCA)

In response to the need identified by Canada’s research and education community for national coordination and alignment of cybersecurity efforts, the Government of Canada funds CANARIE to invest in initiatives. This helps strengthen the sector with advanced technologies, improved processes, and broadened expertise. These initiatives are delivered to eligible organizations through provincial and territorial partners in Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN). 

ORION helped to promote the National Cybersecurity Assessment (NCA) and encourage institutions to sign up. The NCA uses the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework to allow organizations to evaluate their cybersecurity capabilities. The assessment supports teams in making informed decisions on investments that improve their security.  

ORION Cybersecurity Awareness Training

ORION Cybersecurity Awareness Training provides training and phishing simulations to emphasize that everyone plays a role in protecting against cyber threats. We have added new content tailored for higher education. We also introduced new monthly check-ins, scorecards, and quarterly admin training refreshers. As of today, we have more than 60,000 students, staff, and faculty and over 10 active constituents on the platform. Our team will continue to enhance the user experience. 

Theme Three: Building and Sustaining Trusted Community Partnerships

ORION Cybersecurity Programs and Partnerships

ORION Shared Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

ORION Shared SIEM

From conversations with our community, we heard that a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool will help higher education institutions detect and protect against cyber threats. We are excited to have completed the ORION Shared SIEM pilot. This will help organizations identify threats faster, so they can focus on protecting themselves.  

Canadian Shared Security Operations Centre (CanSSOC)

ORION continues to participate in a committee with CANARIE and other NREN partners to further define the concept of a federated Security Operations Centre (SOC) that will meet the needs of our connected higher education institutions. The Canadian Shared Security Operations Centre (CanSSOC) was created on the principle that no single institution can tackle cybersecurity challenges alone. It will leverage existing investments and technologies such as ORION’s SOC-as-a-service. 

ORION Community Training

ORION Community Training offers courses and professional development opportunities for our constituents. Last year, we offered Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), and Incident Commander Training. These courses support Ontario’s research, education and innovation community to advance cybersecurity skills and gain certifications. Collaboration and customization are at the heart of ORION’s Community Training program. As such, we plan to offer additional courses and workshops in 2023 with the needs of our community in mind. 

ORION Connectivity Services and Partnerships

ORION and GTAnet Amalgamation

We supported the amalgamation with GTAnet, joining forces to serve our communities better. In doing so, ORION will sustain a network that is more robust and responsive. We recognized that by pooling our resources and expertise, we can increase our impact and ability to make a difference. ORION will continue to explore opportunities for further collaboration and innovation. 

Cyber Security Risk Management Seminar for Higher Education

Cyber Security Risk Management Seminar for Higher Education

The Cyber Security Centre of Excellence hosted a Cyber Security Risk Management Seminar in partnership with ORION and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst. One seminar was for higher education executives and board members that focused on real-world threats and how these can be managed on an ongoing basis. Some takeaways included the impacts of increasing dependence on digital technologies, key gaps within the higher education sector, the value of tabletop exercises, and more. Another seminar was intended for IT professionals that had immersive exercises in small breakout rooms. The sessions explored cybersecurity best practices, the incident response lifecycle, and other topics.

 

ORION Pricing Modernization

ORION has reviewed our legacy pricing model, which was created in 2009. We created a pricing committee, learning from our NREN partners and listening to our community. We developed a pricing model and an approach informed by our constituents that focused on ensuring equity, transparency, and fairness. In the past year, we worked on introducing a new pricing model for the fiscal year starting in April 2023. We hosted webinars to discuss how the new tiered pricing structure has been designed to adapt and respond to ongoing growth in a sustainable way. 

ORION Facts & Figures

Network Infrastructure Investment Over the Past 10 Years

Network Infrastructure Investment Over the Past 10 Years

Expenses Over the Past 10 Years

Operating Expenses Over the Past 10 Years

Revenue Over the Past 10 Years

Revenue Over the Past 10 Years

By working together, we can create a better, more sustainable future for our community. We remain committed to fostering connections and embracing collaboration that will empower innovation.  

Thank you again to all our partners and community members for your unwavering support in 2022. We could not have done it without you. Let us continue to forge ahead, united by a shared vision. 

We want to hear from you and how ORION can serve you better.  

If you have any questions or comments, please email communitydev@orion.on.ca.