Cyber security is not only vital for businesses, it can be a big business — ask Israel, where entrepreneurs regularly gives birth to security-related startups, including Check Point Software. There are enough that at the RSA Conference earlier this year the Israeli Consulate showcased 30 of them. (By comparison Canada’s RSA trade show exhibit touted 20 firms).
Now the province of New Brunswick wants to get a piece of the action. On Tuesday Premier Brian Gallant announced an economic development strategy on cybersecurity and cyber innovation called CyberNB.
“Our province already has a world-class cybersecurity cluster with leading researchers, academics and global businesses like IBM all contributing, which is exciting as there is a lot of room for growth as cybersecurity violations around the world cost about $500 billion annually,” Gallant said. “By collaborating even more, the cybersecurity ecosystem in New Brunswick will be strengthened and will be able to provide solutions to this global threat.”
Developed with industry leaders, academia and the government, the strategy is aimed at creating high-value jobs and having a positive impact on New Brunswick’s GDP over the next five years.
CyberNB, is headed by Allen Dillon, who has worked in IT security in the Maritimes for years. most recently as president of Patriot Consulting, an advisory firm, and and CEO of Sentrant Security, which makes solutions to detect and mitigate online advertising fraud.
“You can go to a big city in Canada or other jurisdictions and you can get support, you can get tax incentives and all these different types of things to help you make a decision on where you’re going to invest. What’s different here is that since 1989, since the University (of New Brunswick) first put out its information systems backbone, we have built an ecosystem and we’re aligning those assets to build a whole support network that includes government and academia and industry working together,” Dillon said in an interview today. With “a little push … we can take this to an exponential outcome.”
“I’m very excited about that, and that’s why I took the job.”
Dillon will report to OpportunitiesNB, a provincial Crown corporation charged with growing the provincial economy. At the moment CyberNB doesn’t have a dedicated budget. Instead its funding comes out of OpportunitiesNB’s $100 million annual budget. “As we continue to look for new initiatives we will be reaching out to the province and the federal government directly — particularly on the innovation initiatives. We’re still in the process of doing that, but either way it’s full speed ahead,” corporation CEO Stephen Lund said in an interview today.
CyberNB has five spokes, one of which is the creation of a New Brunswick-based Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, a research facility. OpportunitiesNB is looking for partners, including the federal government from its innovation initiatives, to help fund it. Dillon said more details on the institute will be released soon.
The other parts of the strategy are
- CyberSparkNB, which will support the creation and accelerated growth of cybersecurity technologies, industry cluster and jobs in New Brunswick;
- CyberSmartNB, a cybersecurity educational pipeline to train new information security experts and accelerate workforce development;
- CyberInnovateNB, a new incubator dedicated to start-ups and new tech development in cybersecurity;
- CyberSecureNB, which is dedicated to being a model for securing New Brunswick digital services and infrastructure, while raising public and industry awareness to cybersecurity threats.
“There’s a significant opportunity” in cyber security, Lund said. “This is the fastest growing area of IT and it will be for the next 20 years … and we’re already doing it. We already have a foundation here. One of the biggest acquisitions in the VC (venture capital) world in the last five years was IBM acquiring Q1 Labs out of Fredericton. [Q1 makes IBM’s QRadar security information event management (SIEM) solution]. IBM’s global CTO for cybersecurity is still in Fredericton. They just announced another 250 jobs from IBM specifically dedicated to cybersecurity to go along with 150 people they already have here.” And on Tuesday IBM said that the University of New Brunswick would be one of eight North American institutions helping Big Blue train its Watson cognitive computing platform to understand how to process cyber security information.
“We’re already doing it,” Lund said. “What we’re doing now is taking it to the big leagues … We’re positioning New Brunswick as the cyber centre in Canada.”
(This story has been updated to add comments from Stephen Lund and Allen Dillon)