Cybersecurity in Canada focus of new partnership between GRAND and SERENE-RISC networks
NCE collaboration to tackle growing privacy and security risks to digital infrastructure.
Posted by GRAND NCE, July 2, 2014

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

(VANCOUVER – July 02, 2014) The Internet and digital infrastructure play an essential role in nearly every aspect of Canadians’ lives. With our increasing reliance on online activity, governments, businesses, and private citizens face greater exposure to risks related to Internet security and privacy. According to recent statistics, more than seven million Canadians fell victim to cybercrime in 2013 with associated costs at over $3-billion CDN – double the previous year’s costs.

Online users, however, are typically unaware of the risks involved in daily activities, from online transactions to relying on the Internet for managing critical institutional networks and financial systems. Personal information is routinely collected and shared by service providers, employers, and government – not to mention via online social networks – which, in some cases, also track online activities.

To better understand these emerging threats and to develop innovative ways to protect Canadians, the GRAND NCE and the Smart Cybersecurity Network (SERENE-RISC) have partnered to identify areas of collaboration that will help mobilize the growing knowledge about cybersecurity in public and private sectors.

Montréal-based SERENE-RISC is a new Knowledge-Mobilization Network (NCE-KM) formed through the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program to improve technical practices and promote effective strategies for protecting Canadians from current and future on-line security threats. The GRAND NCE research network, formed in 2009, includes over 350 researchers at 27 universities across Canada focused on addressing complex issues in digital media.

By joining forces, the two networks bring together wide-ranging experts and partners, including from the fields of computer and social sciences, government cybersecurity agencies, and private companies that protect critical infrastructure and telecommunications businesses. Together, GRAND and SERENE-RISC will work to build trust in the integrity of the digital infrastructure allowing the digital economy to maintain its healthy growth and innovation potential.

“The NCE Program includes a variety of types of networks, each with different mandates,” noted GRAND’s scientific director, Dr. Kellogg Booth. “The opportunity to work with a Knowledge-Mobilization NCE in cybersecurity allows us to build on each other’s strengths. The depth of expertise available in SERENE-RISC gives GRAND researchers easiy access what was learned in ISSNet and to other ongoing research so we can apply it to our own work more effectively.”

Plans are currently underway to hold a joint workshop on privacy and security risks in digital media to be held in conjunction with GRAND 2015 Annual Conference (Vancouver, BC, May 13-15). Though targeted to students and postdoctoral researchers, the workshop will be open to faculty, industry and government representatives, along with other stakeholders. Other co-funded workshops, as well as exchange visits for affiliated labs, and joint engagement with partners in the receptor community will be developed over the coming months.

“GRAND and SERENE-RISC are probably the two largest Canadian networks currently examining the various dimensions of cybersecurity and their implications for connected individuals and organizations,” observed SERENE-RISC’s Scientific Director Dr. Benoît Dupont. “Both groups consider privacy and security as mutually reinforcing values that should be analyzed jointly instead of being opposed, as is frequently the case. The collaborations we are planning around our complementary resources will deliver cutting edge knowledge to Canadian society.”

GRAND and SERENE-RISC share a number of key connections through their close ties with ISSNet, the NSERC strategic research network on Internetworked Systems Security Network in operation from 2008 to 2013. Both GRAND and SERENE-RISC will build on research conducted by ISSNet to develop useful guidelines, methodologies, and policies for secure online activity.

Dr. Robert Biddle, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carleton University is the former Theme Leader for Human-oriented Security in ISSNet. He now leads GRAND’s PROTECT (Policy, Practice and Technology for Protection of Privacy, Integrity and Access) project, and has already participated in some of SERENE-RISC’s initiatives.

PROTECT builds on GRAND’s earlier PrivNM (Usable Privacy and Security in New Media Environments) project. An overarching goal in PrivNM has been to use social sciences and legal research to inform public policy. An advocate for “privacy by design,” PrivNM sought to embed privacy and security considerations into the early design stages of technologies and organizational practices.

According to Dr. Biddle, ISSNet’s innovation of treating human-oriented security research as a major research theme was taken further in PrivNM, by linking security and privacy research to work in the social sciences, legal and policy studies.

“In our new PROTECT project, we are integrating this diverse research program by emphasizing the need for a new kind of 'literacy' for privacy and security, where better understanding and design will support informed citizenship. This approach connects very well with the knowledge mobilization agenda of SERENE-RISC."

SERENE's Deputy Scientific Director, Dr. Sonia Chiasson is also in GRAND. She is the Canada Research Chair in Human Oriented Computer Security, Assistant Professor at Carleton University. Dr. Chiasson was a Postdoctoral Fellow in ISSNet and was involved in research led by Dr. Biddle that was conducted jointly with GRAND.

Dr. Samuel Trosow, Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario, cross-appointed in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and in the Faculty of Law, is also a main collaborator in both GRAND and SERENE-RISC. Dr. Trosow leads GRAND’s new Citizenship research theme and is an active scholar in the area of privacy and regulatory policies that affect digital citizenship.

“There are a host of unsettled legal, regulatory and policy issues surrounding privacy, surveillance and security. The field is rapidly changing and the connections between technology, law and ethics requires a multi-disciplinary approach which will be greatly enhanced through this new collaboration,” said Dr. Trosow.

Another connection, SERENE-RISC Executive Director Shirley McKey was the Director of Operations for ISSNet, and worked closely with GRAND in building the ISSNet leadership base.


About the GRAND NCE

The Graphics, Animation and New Media / Graphisme, animation et nouveaux médias NCE Inc. (GRAND NCE) is Canada’s largest digital media research network and knowledge mobilization engine with the goal of improving the quality of life of all Canadians and maintaining Canada’s role as a significant player in the global digital economy. Launched in 2009 through the federally funded Networks of Centres of Excellence program, GRAND addresses complex issues in digital media through receptor-driven interdisciplinary research, training, partnerships, and policies, as well as through the commercial development of emerging research technologies and innovation.


Spencer Rose



The Smart Cybersecurity Network (SERENE-RISC) is a new Knowledge-Mobilization Network (NCE-KM) created to help protect Canadians and organizations from current and future on-line security threats. The Network brings together academics in the fields of computer and social sciences, as well as public and private partners, to mobilize the growing knowledge about on-line risks and to promote the most effective strategies and minimize the consequences of cyber attacks. SERENE-RISC’s activities will provide Canadians with a safer on-line experience, protect privacy, and help this country’s digital economy continue to grow.


Charles Gaudreau
Smart Cybersecurity Network (SERENE-RISC)
514 343-6111 ext. 41015