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Grant of nearly $2 million from Public Safety Canada

The Université de Sherbrooke will contribute to the advancement of cybersecurity research in Canada

Sherbrooke, le 23 février 2023 – To advance knowledge in cybersecurity and develop best practices to overcome its challenges, the federal government is leveraging expertise at the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) by giving the institution a cumulative amount of $1,952,781 for major cybersecurity research.

This funding was granted by Public Safety Canada under the National Cyber Security Strategy and has been allocated to a multi-faculty and multi-disciplinary team from UdeS so that it can conduct two partnership research projects. This work will strengthen the resiliency of Canada's critical infrastructure, or the assets and equipment that a third party needs to access to offer its own product or service in a market.

A total of 5 faculties, 11 researchers, more than 50 students from 14 countries, and 5 poles of expertise will be involved in this research program.

The first project will assess the resiliency of a medium-sized power distributor in the context of Industry 4.0 and particularly its ability to identify new threats. The second project will analyze the security of the Industrial Internet of Things deployed with 5G connectivity and edge computing that will include studying their application to agriculture, water management and building management. Industry 4.0 refers to the integration of new technologies (Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence) into a company’s production centres and overall operations.

This work will be led by three co-principal investigators from UdeS: Sébastien Roy, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering; Marc Frappier, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science; and Pierre Martin Tardif, a professor in the Department of Information Systems and Quantitative Management Methods, School of Management. They will be supported by eight research staff who are all members of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Cybersecurity (GRIC).

This group is an excellent representation of UdeS’s specific approach to cybersecurity to meet the needs of society and industry partners.

Seven private and public partners

Thanks to the robust networking and connections of UdeS’s Business Partnerships Group (GPA), these research teams will benefit from contributions, such as case studies, from seven partners that are essential to the success of both projects: Bell Canada (5G telecommunications), Honeywell (building technologies and services), VMware (virtual environments), Centris Technologies (agricultural management), Ville de Sherbrooke (drinking water management), Hydro-Sherbrooke (power distribution), and GoSecure (cybersecurity expertise).

“After its launch five years ago, the GPA has become a unique solution provider for UdeS partner organizations, which also enriches the experiential education we can offer our students. This has naturally translated into our top ranking among Canadian universities in terms of growth in partner research revenue.”

Professor Vincent Aimez, Vice-President, Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer

“Our efforts will be guided by our partners’ specific challenges, and our research will lead to broad fundamental and practical advances with a global impact. These partners will be key to sharing the knowledge generated by the project, as many of their representatives will mobilize knowledge among their broader networks.”

Professor Sébastien Roy

This new adventure for the GRIC will tackle major challenges in IT. “Our industrial partners will allow us to test advanced solutions in real environments,” said Professor Marc Frappier. The perspectives from these two projects will also be interdisciplinary and address non-traditional aspects such as governance, legal and regulatory compliance, and social acceptability. “Through our excellence in teaching, students from all levels will get to participate in the project,” explained Professor Pierre Martin Tardif. “Our partners will go on to hire them, which will maximize knowledge transfer.”

“In the 21st century, cybersecurity is a national security issue. Canadians are more connected than ever, and we have to protect them from emerging Web threats. Whether we are fighting cyberattacks, digital espionage, or ransomware, we work with the best and brightest experts to find innovative solutions. The Cyber Security Cooperation Program contributes to this endeavour by supporting leading-edge projects, such as those at UdeS, to uphold Canadians’ online safety.”

- The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety

Mobilizing organizations to bolster cybersecurity

To ensure that Public Safety Canada’s new Cyber Security Cooperation Program is successful, the research team immediately turned to partnership research, as these initiatives bring great benefits not only to UdeS but also to the partners involved.

“The arrival of 5G will accelerate the advantages of connected cities thanks to remote system management and monitoring without human intervention. The connectivity of all objects increases the attack surface and generates new risk vectors that require more research to enhance our cyber attack response strategy. Our collaboration with UdeS is key to achieving this goal.”

– Marc Duchesne, Vice-President, Corporate Security & Responsibility, Bell

“IT security is a must for operating technology projects. This is why it’s important for our team to be part of this type of developmental security project.”

Catherine Bouchard, Co-President, Centris Technologies

“As the world becomes more connected and operational technology systems continue to converge, it is essential for organizations—and especially critical infrastructure centres—to properly assess their cybersecurity risks and improve their defences.”

Mirel Sehic, Vice President & General Manager, Head of Cybersecurity, Honeywell

“Being an IT security professional has never been more difficult. The growing threat environment, expanding attack surface, and lack of expertise only add to the challenges. GoSecure has always been a proactive and involved player in the cybersecurity community. That’s why it is important for our team to support this research project.”

Anne-Marie Faber, Vice President, Marketing, GoSecure

“With the growing acceleration of innovation, increased interconnectivity, and ever-changing attack methods, it is critical for the Ville de Sherbrooke and Hydro-Sherbrooke to partner with a local organization on a cybersecurity research project to effectively prepare against future threats to our organization.”

Marc-Antoine Pinard, Director of Information Technology, Ville de Sherbrooke

“The complexity and sophistication of today's cyberattacks require security defences that are smarter and more agile than the threats we face. In the future, machine learning will play an important role in how we discover, protect and recover from malware.”

- Kit Colbert, Chief Technology Officer, VMware

An innovative region that contributes to change

These projects will harness the scientific strengths of the Eastern Townships, and especially expertise and resources in Sherbrooke, as well as the experimental 5G telecommunications infrastructure installed by Bell at UdeS’s Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT). Indeed, there is nothing better than a region committed to constant excellence and to a project that makes a real impact on society.

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Isabelle Huard, Media Relations Advisor
Communications Department | Université de Sherbrooke | 819-821-8000, extension 63395