Security industry faces obstacles

The Canadian security industry is centralized in an urban corridor consisting of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, and is a sector where there are huge growth opportunities if industry leaders and government work together, said the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) during a meeting of industry insiders and media in Toronto last month.

Between April and May 2003, CATA constructed a database that listed the 698 security firms based in the country. Right now CATA estimates there are about 22,000 people working for these companies with total annual revenues of about $1.5 billion.

From May to August, CATA surveyed these companies about the state of the Canadian security industry, and released the resulting report, authored by Jean-Guy Rens, executive director of CATA, last month. He said the survey was commissioned after the U.S. Consulate in Canada requested information about the state of the Canadian security industry, and CATA realized no such data was available.

While these companies admit to losing ground in the tech boom, they said the recovery in the security sector has been quicker than most. However, there are still obstacles to growth, one of which is the lack of venture capital.

Simply put, Canadian security companies need more money for R&D. CATA said this lack of funding could lead to lost market opportunities, both in the short and long term, because it will result in less innovation and fewer opportunities for expansion into new markets.

CATA also said the government needs to be more proactive to encourage transparency in reporting security incidents – California just passed a law stating that when a company has a security breach, it must notify its clients – and ensure these standards are supported within the Canadian industry.

While CATA is not saying that laws of California’s magnitude need to be passed, transparency is one key issue that needs to be addressed. However, the best means of tackling this problem is not yet clear – whether the industry should drive it through best practices or if government should do it through legislation, CATA said.

The government also needs to clarify accountability for all parties in regards to security, and foster an environment of co-operation between industry, academic institutions, and government. There are few educational programs dedicated to IT security – the exception being a master’s program at Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton. Courses at the undergraduate level are scattered through more than 700 IT programs.

Right now the factors that are driving this industry are the proliferation of the Internet and the digitization of traditional security devices, CATA said, and the lines between physical security and security of information are starting to blur.

“Security is not a tech