Leading the Global Cybersecurity Future
In an increasingly interconnected and digital world, accelerated by the pandemic, cybersecurity is an ever more vital topic for Canadians, government, and businesses alike.
Investment in cybersecurity is essential to boosting the productivity and efficiency of the Canadian economy. With privacy and data protection critical in our modern economy where Canadians are frequently accessing digital services, the risks are meanwhile at an all-time high. Canadians deserve strong protections to ensure their personal data is safe.
Canadians should be proud that our country has a strong cybersecurity foundation in place, with a number of significant global companies calling Canada home. While the recently released 2021 federal budget did dedicate significant investments in cybersecurity to secure government IT infrastructure, it made no specific commitment to help Canadian businesses boost their cybersecurity measures.
At the same time our most direct competitors in the U.S., Israel, and UK are investing billions. The OECD has also raised a red flag: while the majority of the OECD is increasing R&D investment – being led by the United States, Japan, Germany and Korea – Canada is one of only a few countries where R&D investment is “stagnant”. With far less investment in Canadian cybersecurity, Canada now finds itself at risk of being left behind.
Small and mid-sized organizations in particular are in need of greater cybersecurity threat awareness, protection, and training to utilize the full suite of tools at their disposal to keep Canadians safe from bad actors. Cybersecurity expertise should be supported to provide the necessary protection and training.
Cybersecurity is part of a vast digital ecosystem that connects communities across Canada and around the world. In 2018, Canada’s 340 cybersecurity companies contributed $2.3 billion to Canada’s GDP and 22,000 high-skilled, well-paying jobs. Continuing to sustain innovation and build trust in this digital world demands continued growth of cybersecurity capacity. Digital expansion, hastened by COVID-19, has created significant opportunity right now to create high-skilled, well-paying jobs, increase exports, and contribute to Canada’s economic recovery. This moment might never come again.
Canada is well-positioned on cybersecurity, but our global competitors are moving fast. Increased investment in cybersecurity stands to benefit communities across Canada from both job creation and from improved Canadian cybersecurity accessibility and protection.
Here’s how Canada can lead the global cybersecurity future
There are three key areas Canada must improve upon:
- Growing Canada’s economy by accelerating the competitiveness of Canada’s cybersecurity industry.
- Securing Canadian critical infrastructure, supply chains, and businesses of all sizes from cyber threats by investing in cybersecurity at levels comparable to Canada’s G7 peers.
- Boosting Canada’s cybersecurity skill-set and career opportunities by making cybersecurity education, talent development, and retention a national priority and by investing in programs that diversify and expand the cyber workforce pipeline.
Time is of the essence. Recent data from the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions shows that 1 in 5 Canadian organizations experienced cybersecurity incidents in 2020. This includes 6.6% that experienced more cybersecurity incidents in 2020 compared to 2019. Further, 1 in 4 organizations reported that adopting technologies was “somewhat” or “extremely” challenging.
Canadians are concerned too. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 65% of Canadians are worried about falling victim to a cyber-attack. This is the second highest worry, behind only a fear of job loss (75%). Cyber-attack is an even bigger worry than COVID (60%) and climate change (63%). This concern extends to business leaders as well: PwC Canada reports that 80% of Canadian CEOs say they are concerned about cybersecurity as a threat to growth.
Canada’s digital expansion has been accelerated by COVID at a pace unimaginable before the pandemic. There is a very significant opportunity to seize the moment of soaring global demand and solidify Canada’s position as a global cybersecurity leader. Canada’s diminished fiscal health means we simply cannot afford to miss this economic opportunity.
Learn more on how we can do it:
To grow Canada’s economy by accelerating the competitiveness of Canada’s cybersecurity industry, the Government of Canada should:
- Accelerate the commercialization of cybersecurity innovation in Canada by establishing and funding a Cybersecurity Commercialization Program that bridges the gap between cybersecurity research and cybersecurity product development and optimization in high-impact and high-reward areas.
- Modernize Research and Development programs to reward companies undertaking high risk research where near-term returns on investment are absent. This should include providing wage and payroll tax subsidies, tax credits, focused R&D support, and other incentives to generate cybersecurity-related Intellectual Property in Canada.
- Create opportunities for made-in-Canada cybersecurity products and services by establishing a Cybersecurity Technology Early Adoption Program that encourages public and private entities to become early adopters of cybersecurity products and services developed in Canada, with particular emphasis on high growth areas, such as IoT and smart cities cybersecurity, critical infrastructure security (including health care), software supply chain security, AI-driven cybersecurity, and post-quantum encryption.
- Stimulate cybersecurity innovation in Canada through public sector procurement by making government technology procurement practices more agile, challenge-based and outcome-driven. Also, create more opportunities for cybersecurity start-ups, scale-ups, and underrepresented and/or unrepresented groups (such as Women, Indigenous peoples, Black persons, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+), who own or lead small businesses by leveraging existing policies, such as the Industrial and Technological Benefits policy and accelerating efforts by Public Services and Procurement Canada to increase the diversity of bidders on government contracts.
To secure Canadian critical infrastructure, supply chains, and businesses of all sizes from cyber threats, the Government of Canada should invest in cybersecurity at levels comparable to Canada’s G7 peers:
- Encourage investment in enterprise security before attacks happen by helping critical infrastructure operators and businesses of all sizes develop enterprise cybersecurity strategies that help prevent cyber attacks. These plans should also encourage entities to develop robust cyber response plans, threat information sharing mechanisms, and promote the continuous updating of cybersecurity plans to align with cybersecurity best practices and global standards.
- Create a National Cybersecurity Assistance Fund to support investments in effective cyber threat prevention by helping critical infrastructure operators and businesses of all sizes implement their prevention-first cybersecurity strategies and invest in solutions and services that increase the resilience of their enterprise to cyber attacks.
- Fund public-private partnerships that facilitate better threat information sharing in a way that builds mutual trust and enables threat information to be shared between businesses and government in a timely, confidential, and actionable manner.
To boost Canada’s cybersecurity skill-set and career opportunities, make cybersecurity education, talent development, and retention a national priority and invest in programs that diversify and expand the cyber workforce pipeline. To achieve success, the Government of Canada should:
- Provide grants for cyber education and awareness programs at all levels (K to post-secondary) to support the development of cybersecurity curricula, educator training, standardized cybersecurity certification programs, and the next generation of cybersecurity leaders in Canada.
- Develop programs and provide grants to organizations that are dedicated to advancing the training, recruitment, retraining and retention of women and under-represented groups in cybersecurity.
- Support cyber talent recruitment and retention programs that help businesses in Canada attract and retain cybersecurity resources throughout the lifecycle of their careers and develop inclusive and diverse workplace cultures where all can thrive.
- Align skilled workforce immigration programs to help Canadian companies recruit top cybersecurity talent globally through creative incentive programs such as fast track immigration, scholarships, wage subsidies, relocation support, family support and spousal employment support.
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