Information security awareness: it’s all about outreach

Another successful Cyber Security Awareness Month has come and gone, and we had the pleasure of facilitating various outreach activities.

We ran five unique initiatives, reaching three audiences: faculty, staff and students. Our two most successful events were our cloud security course and our pop up booth.

The course, run by well-known information security expert, James Arlen, provided a valuable overview of ITS’ responsibilities when it comes to securing a cloud-based service. Nowadays, the procurement and deployment of cloud services (more descriptively known as Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service) is becoming increasingly attractive given the complexities of operating and maintaining hardware, middleware and applications. While the responsibility for some of these aspects can be transferred to the cloud service provider, there are many other aspects that remain the responsibility of the business and technical contacts of the local service provider. Many of U of T’s technical staff attended this course and were grateful for the opportunity to learn more about this important subject.

Since we began this outreach program one year ago we have hosted pop up booths at locations across the tri-campus. When we run these booths, we hand out educational materials, lead games and conduct surveys. But the most important moments are when we take the time to chat with students.

When we speak with students at our booth we have the unique opportunity to connect with them one on one. It’s amazing how, when you offer students the opportunity to express themselves about info security, the flood gates open. We hear personal stories of hacked accounts, identity theft and expressions of fear about life in the digital age.

It seems that having a person physically in front of them provided students with the empathetic ear they craved. Often students can feel like they are just a number, by making ourselves available to chat, they begin to feel like we, and the university as a whole, cares about them personally. For a young person who is confused or frightened, this makes all the difference.