Original article by Innovating Canada
Cybersecurity is mission critical to safeguarding the Canadian economy. The cyber threat landscape is continuously evolving, with ever more sophisticated tools freely available to those with malicious intent. The ranks of cybercriminals have exploded and become hyper-organized, while state-sponsored threat actors have also become bolder and better-funded. Especially given the wider attack surface presented with businesses moving more and more of their operations online, the potential fallout of a successful attack has only become more devastating. In fact, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there have been over 150,000 reports of fraud in Canada with over $600 million stolen since January 2021. This is the reality that Canadian businesses operate in today.
Countering these threats requires diligence, it requires experience, and it requires collaboration. Fortunately, Canadian companies are recognizing the seriousness of cybersecurity and committing the required resources to threat detection, prevention, and mitigation. Collaboration has become the word of the day with the advent of expert team-ups like TECHNATION’s Cybersecurity Taskforce, which brings together 15 cybersecurity member organizations to enhance Canada’s overall cyber preparedness.
“We truly see cybersecurity as a team effort,” says Kevin Dawson, President and CEO of ISA Cybersecurity, one the taskforce’s original members. “Even though many of the participants on the taskforce are business competitors, at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team when it comes to fighting cyber crime. We’re all working to lobby and advocate for a strong digital society for the benefit of all Canadians.”
Canadian businesses have no shortage of motivation to collaborate and exercise diligence. Experience, on the other hand, is hard-won. Canada is home to nearly 500 cybersecurity companies that have been operating and adapting in this space for decades. Yet, even for these accomplished organizations, it remains a constant challenge to stay ahead of the rapidly moving threat landscape.
“The adversaries have first mover advantage all the time,” explains J. Paul Haynes, President and COO at cybersecurity firm eSentire, also a Cybersecurity Taskforce member and co-Chair. “You can’t spend two years building a plan that gets thrown out the window in 10 minutes. You have to change your approach and adapt constantly. We’ve got a whole internal learning program, eSentire University, with progression, certifications, and attendant salary increases to incentivize continuous on-the-job learning. HR and talent management are the very key to this industry.”
Keeping cybersecurity professionals skilled to meet the moving target of cyber threat knowledge is, however, only one half of the equation. Ensuring an adequate flow of new talent into the sector, sufficient to meet the ever-growing demand, is just as essential. A recent report by Canada’s Information and Communications Technology Council revealed that one in six jobs for cybersecurity specialists currently goes unfilled in Canada due to an estimated shortfall of 25,000 of these workers, with the gap continuing to widen by the day.
“Canada’s education system needs to advance and adapt to match the accelerated pace needed to catch up with cybersecurity talent demand,” says Angela Mondou, President and CEO of TECHNATION, co-Chair of the Cybersecurity Task Force. “To meet the aggressive needs of the Cyber sector, innovative cybersecurity education programs should include compressed post-secondary education and online learning. Work-integrated learning which includes real-life operational work experience, is critical in this type of high security environment. TECHNATION’s Career Ready Program connect talent to real world experience. The reality is, the cybersecurity skills for today, don’t have a long shelf-life.”
As Canada’s foremost national technology industry association, TECHNATION has been leading the charge on cybersecurity awareness, readiness, and collaboration, spearheading initiatives like its Cybersecurity Taskforce. TECHNATION is also, however, laser-focused on the daunting talent gap in the sector, and is addressing it with a wide array of programs. Career Ready, funded by the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program, has proven extraordinarily effective at establishing a cost-effective talent pool, particularly for smaller companies. Through this program, more than 500 students have been exposed to real-world cybersecurity roles within Candian businesses.
“Leveraging the Career Ready Program has definitely helped us secure new talent,” says Dawson. “We plan to expand our use of the Program in coming years.”
And the coming years are set to be the most crucial yet. A 2023 report by Tech7 — an advisory group of tech associations from G7 countries — identified cybersecurity as one of the six most critical focus areas for future development. Tech7 — of which TECHNATION is a member — noted that G7 members must collaborate not only within their own nations, but also cross-border, to preserve the functioning of our economies and our societies.
This spring, Mondou was in Japan representing TECHNATION at both the Tech7/G7 Digital and Tech Ministers Meeting as well as the World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Summit, where she delivered the closing remarks. The message she brings home to Canada from these global conversations is one of urgency, but also of optimism.
“Cyber protection is a fundamental and non-negotiable component of Canada’s national security,” says Mondou. “Of the many pieces that need to come together to address cybersecurity support for Canadian organizations, education boltered with real-world experience, is the cornerstone solution. A robust cybersecurity ecosystem connecting government, industry, and academia is quintessential to maintaining Canada’s global competitiveness and position as a global leader in cybersecurity.”
TECHNATION’s Cybersecurity Taskforce developed a recommendation document outlining the top three risks identified by our Cybersecurity industry members, as well as one capstone and four key recommendations. It was distributed to the Federal Government in September 2022 and March 2023.
Launch a National Cybersecurity Taskforce to design a focused, targeted implementation plan to accelerate cybersecurity talent.
OTHER KEY TASKFORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
Cybersecurity in industry needs to be mandated as a matter of national security
Cybersecurity, consistent with other leading-edge tech, is a highly dynamic field. Traditional workforce expectations for experience and roles do not work today.
Recruit cyber talent from offshore: target red-tape reduction and improve movement of cyber talent. Industry needs to attract top international talent and must have quick and reliable immigration programs.
Subsidize / fund cybersecurity organizations to train, develop, and retain resources.
Access funding to hire a cyber work-integrated learning co-op student today through TECHNATION’s Career Ready Program at technationcanada.ca/careerready.