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Strengthening cybersecurity education: a collaboration with ORION

  • Products used: CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training, CIRA Anycast DNS 
  • Partnership since: 2021 
  • In-house users: 150 
  • ORION community users: 50,000 
  • Favourite thing about CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training: Continuous development of content and features  

ORION (formerly the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network) connects research and education institutions, regions, and people across the province; they enable collaboration, learning, forge partnerships, and provide the community with the digital tools and expertise they need to make the world a better place. ORION specializes in providing network and cybersecurity solutions and products to a diverse community, including colleges and universities. Recognizing the ever-growing importance of cybersecurity education for employees and partner organizations, ORION embarked on a mission to enhance its offering with a cybersecurity awareness training program.  The partnership with CIRA

ORION’s journey to strengthen its cybersecurity portfolio by adding awareness training began with its partnership with CIRA. The collaboration was rooted in shared values and a common vision for addressing cybersecurity challenges in the higher education and research sector. Anju Sohal, Senior program manager at ORION, explained, “Our partnership with CIRA was based on a shared gap in addressing the higher education sector’s cybersecurity needs, as revealed by research and data from CIRA. We have built strong relationships and partnerships with colleges and universities in Ontario, providing a unique advantage.”  

The launch of the Cybersecurity Awareness Training program 

Upon partnering with CIRA, ORION launched its program leveraging CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training. The initiative was designed to equip educational institutions with the tools and knowledge needed to educate their staff and member organizations on how to recognize and mitigate cyber threats such as phishing attacks. The program underwent a successful pilot phase before its official launch. 

Sohal, who joined ORION shortly after the pilot phase said, “My role was to oversee the productization of the program, conduct a full official launch, and drive necessary improvements for higher education.” 

Continuous improvement and evolution 

One of the key factors contributing to the success of this cybersecurity training program was its commitment to continuous improvement. CIRA worked diligently to enhance the content, curriculum, and workflows regularly. New content is released throughout the year, ensuring that users receive the most relevant and up-to-date training. 

Sohal emphasized the importance of user feedback in shaping the program, “We have established specific workflows for students and IT groups, all driven by input and feedback from our users. Our goal is to adapt to the changing landscape and meet the specific needs of our constituents.”  

User engagement and competitive element 

User engagement played a crucial role in the success of ORION’s cybersecurity awareness training program. While excitement and engagement were created through contests and competitions, the focus was on regular check-ins and scorecard reviews. These measures helped track user engagement and experience, ensuring that the training remained effective. Sohal added, “We emphasize regular check-ins and scorecard reviews to track user engagement and experience. If we notice a significant increase in risk scores, it becomes a flag for us to investigate and provide additional support.” 

Strengthening the partnership 

Beyond offering the training product, CIRA demonstrated its commitment to supporting ORION by maintaining a close, collaborative relationship. The team actively sought feedback and addressed issues promptly. The partnership extended to industry conferences, where ORION and CIRA shared insights about how to build a successful program. 

“We have established a close, collaborative relationship with the CIRA team. This partnership extends well beyond the product itself,” Sohal noted. 


The partnership between ORION and CIRA stands as a testament to the importance of cybersecurity education in the research and education sector. By collaborating and continuously improving their cybersecurity awareness training program, ORION has equipped educational institutions to better defend against cyber threats. The commitment to user engagement, feedback, and a shared vision for cybersecurity education has allowed CIRA and ORION to strengthen their partnership and adapt to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. 

As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, partnerships like the one between ORION and CIRA serve as a model for addressing these challenges through effective cybersecurity training and education. 

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