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IAM Online Speaker Spotlight: Unlocking Strategies for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust with Dr. Donna Kidwell



By Jean Chorazyczewski, InCommon Academy Director

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In today’s evolving digital landscape, institutions must embrace the opportunities that new technology offers while simultaneously navigating an ever-evolving landscape of security threats. Building trust and ensuring robust cybersecurity are critical pillars for long-term success.

Dr. Donna Kidwell, chief information security officer and deputy CIO at the University of Toronto, will be the featured speaker for the upcoming IAM Online webinar, “Playbook – Effective Strategies for Cybersecurity, Digital Trust, and Community Engagement,” on June 12 at 1:15 p.m. ET. 

During this webinar, Dr. Kidwell will draw from her extensive experience in cybersecurity, including her tenure at Arizona State University, where she safeguarded over 177K students and 17K faculty from cyber threats. She will present her newly released playbook, which offers practical strategies and 17 action items for enhancing cybersecurity, building digital trust, and fostering inclusive workplaces at higher education and research institutions. 

Chris Misra, vice chancellor for Information Technology and CIO at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will introduce Dr. Kidwell at the webinar.

Here is a preview of additional insights she will share in her presentation.

Donna Kidwell posing for a profile photo.
Dr. Donna Kidwell, CISO and deputy CIO University of Toronto

Best IAM Advice You Have Ever Received:

The best IAM advice I’ve received came from Lev Gonick, enterprise chief information officer at ASU. Instead of always being on the defensive, he says think offensively. Stay proactive and lead rather than simply reacting to threats. This mindset shift has been instrumental in shaping my approach to cybersecurity and digital trust. By adopting a proactive stance, we can empower ourselves and our organizations to be one step ahead, setting the tone for a secure and trusted digital environment.

Why is cybersecurity and digital trust an important topic to cover now, especially in the context of academia and research institutions?

Institutions are facing an escalating threat landscape, with ransomware and complex attacks becoming all too common. 

Bad actors are drawn to universities because we have rich information about the people on campus and are creating cutting edge knowledge, while at the same time we have many entry points and attack surfaces. The rapid use of AI by threat actors poses a significant challenge, as they leverage this technology faster and with more sophistication than we see within our campuses, creating a complex and dynamic threat landscape.

This is a critical time for us to step up and address these challenges. By rethinking our approach to cybersecurity and identity management, we have an opportunity to modernize and strengthen our technological infrastructure. By embracing digital transformation, we can protect our institutions and the people who depend on us while also serving the needs of lifelong learners in a way that’s fit for the future.

What inspired you to create this playbook, and what do you hope it will achieve for organizations navigating digital trust challenges?

As a community, we recognize the importance of privacy by design, security by design, and zero-trust mindsets, but turning these into tangible actions can be challenging. I want to share the lessons learned during my time at ASU, providing practical steps and strategies that institutions can implement. It’s about offering a design perspective, a unique angle that you won’t find in standards guidelines or regulations. By sharing these insights, I hope to provide a roadmap for organizations to navigate the complex world of digital trust.

What has been your biggest lesson learned in developing strategies for bolstering cybersecurity and building trust within a diverse organization?

We have to be willing to think differently and more strategically about the work we’re doing. We face constant pressure on our resources and we struggle with priorities. There’s always so much to do, and it can be overwhelming, making it hard to even contemplate tackling something as complicated as cybersecurity. 

However, it’s crucial that we step out of our project-by-project mindset. Take a step back and ensure that each project contributes to aspirational goals. It’s a matter of perspective and keeping our eyes on the future we want to build.

What do you hope attendees will learn from your playbook and presentation?

I hope that attendees will walk away with a toolkit of 17 action items that they can immediately apply within their institutions. 

The playbook outlines two key workstreams: “Focus on the People” and “Engineering and Technology.” The first stream emphasizes the human element, with actions centered around governance, education, and engagement. It’s about fostering an inclusive workforce, redesigning processes, and bringing people together creatively. The second stream is about the technical aspects, exploring how we can architect trust through our networks, identities, and system designs. 

By providing these two perspectives, I aim to offer both strategic guidance and tangible tactics. Attendees will gain insights into convening cross-campus collaborations and understanding their unique risk landscape.


Please join us online for “Playbook – Effective Strategies for Cybersecurity, Digital Trust, and Community Engagement” at 1:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

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