Cybersecurity is a priority in Alberta’s rapid digital service transformation

Security practitioners collaborating at a desk with monitors.

Martin Dinel, Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Information Security Officer for the Cybersecurity Services division of Service Alberta, is leading the charge for innovation in cybersecurity. As recently as two years ago, the Government of Alberta had virtually no presence in the cloud, but with the onset of the pandemic, they were compelled by their cabinet of ministers to drive a rapid digital transformation initiative in order to enable remote work. Moving quickly and assertively, Dinel’s team took an environment that could facilitate roughly a hundred people and expanded it to accommodate approximately 30,000.  

Over the course of the transformation, Alberta’s information security team implemented technology and training at a pace to align with the race to remote, always keeping security top-of-mind. “In cybersecurity, the future could be tomorrow, it could be a minute from now. Things impact you very quickly,” says Dinel. “When we started to move services into the cloud, we were able to handle the extra traffic safely. We’ve been able to move rapidly, and that helped tremendously.”  

The Government of Alberta, a $50 billion organization, is tasked with looking after the administrative needs of over 4 million citizens. Within an IT department about a thousand people strong, they have a 45-person dedicated cybersecurity team. As they modernize platforms and policy, Dinel’s team has intently evolved Alberta’s digital security strategy. They’ve tactically shifted from a reactive posture—managing occurring or detected incidents—to a more proactive one, identifying threats ahead of time.   

One key proactive measure they’ve implemented from the beginning of their move into the cloud is multifactor authentication. Another is staying focused on the basics of good cyber hygiene: implementing security patches, monitoring services, and ensuring that the latest versions of software are always up and running.  

However, with more services digitized by Alberta, the more opportunity there is for information theft, identify theft, or fraud. They are committed to detecting cyberattacks early and dealing with them effectively, especially knowing the damage that cyberattacks can cause. Since using Microsoft Security tools, they have stopped at least 1,000 attacks each month.

With the aggressive moves they’ve made, Alberta’s standard practice is now digital by default, with 95% of new solutions implemented securely in the cloud. Up next, Alberta is looking closely at their security posture as they prepare to expand their public-facing side. “We are implementing Microsoft security tools that have been well accepted and that integrate very well within our environment. We have moved way faster than we would normally have,” says Dinel, adding, “I think we probably would have been hit with some successful attacks without Microsoft.” 

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