2020-01-27 - NB's Cyber Security Opportunity

With the turn of the calendar to a new decade, I am feeling energized about the future, the potential of Fredericton’s and New Brunswick’s economy and focusing on the many positives around us. While we are facing serious long-term challenges in this province, there are also opportunities to seize to deal with these issues. One of the reasons it is important for governments to keep costs under control is to have the flexibility and ability to invest in the right opportunities at the right time. At the top of the list in Fredericton is our growing cyber security footprint. 

Cyber crime statistics are staggering – the global cost of cybercrime was estimated to be $600 billion USD in 20171. From Statistics Canada: 

  • Just over one-fifth (21%) of Canadian businesses reported that they were impacted by cyber security incidents which affected their operations in 2017. 
  • More than half (54%) of impacted businesses in Canada reported that cyber security incidents prevented employees from carrying out day-to-day work, while close to one-third (30%) experienced additional repair or recovery costs. 
  • About 10% of businesses in Canada reported that they lost revenue as a result of cyber security incidents. 
  • The vast majority (94%) of businesses in Canada had some level of expenditure to prevent or detect cyber security incidents in 2017. On average, Canadian businesses spent $78,000 on implementing such measures. This was mainly driven by the average expenditure of large businesses ($922,000) and medium-sized businesses ($108,000). Small businesses reported spending an average of $44,000. (Typically, Statistics Canada considers a small business to have fewer than 100 employees, a medium business to have 100-499 employees and a large business to have 500 or more). 
  • Businesses in the most targeted sectors (banking institutions, universities and pipeline transportation, all considered “critical infrastructure” assets) were largely impacted by incidents to steal money or demand ransom payments in 2017.2 This is very relevant to Fredericton as Cyber Park, currently under construction, is being built to protect critical infrastructure assets. 

It seems that every day we hear that some organization’s data has been leaked, hacked or stolen. And that data could be personal, confidential information about any of us. The Fredericton chamber has talked the talk and walked the walk on cyber security and digital compliance. We were the first chamber of commerce in Canada to become certified with the Cyber Essentials program, we have been a champion for the construction of Cyber Park and have sponsored a cybersecurity-focused policy resolution at the national chamber level. 

Cyber has all the makings of an industry that we should be working toward developing in New Brunswick and particularly in Fredericton. It is a clear area of current and future growth, it leverages our post-secondary institutions training and entrepreneurial capabilities, and continues the trajectory of the technology and innovation expertise that have been developed over the past several decades since the days of NBTel.  

The Cyber Centre currently under construction in Fredericton is being recognized nationally as a leading model for private-public partnerships in Canada. Perhaps most importantly, it also presents a strong  investment case for the Government of New Brunswick, considering the equity position Knowledge Park has produced to bring the project to fruition and the anticipated interest revenue that Opportunities New Brunswick will realize as a result of their repayable loan to Knowledge Park to get the project off-the-ground.  

In addition to the strategic and economic impact this project will have, the Government of New Brunswick is anticipated to realize $18M in revenue by virtue of interest payments on the $30M loan provided to Knowledge Park by the provincial government to bring this project to life- a very significant ROI on taxpayer dollars – it is an investment by the province in the literal short-term sense and an investment that will allow the industry to grow and flourish – in effect, an investment in our people. In other words, the province will gain critical infrastructure to further the significant economic growth through cyber security by private industry investment, while receiving significant, interest-based payments from Knowledge Park. 

As the largest representative organization of small- and medium-sized businesses in the province, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce anticipates significant downstream economic benefits as a result of the project as well as positioning our community and province as forward-thinking and global leaders in the new economy. Last year, we wrote to Premier Higgs to tell him just that and the response was positive. 

The project will serve national security interests and fits within the federal government’s National Cybersecurity Strategy and Innovation Agenda. Furthermore, the Cyber Centre will distinguish New Brunswick as a national leader in cybersecurity, specifically for critical infrastructure protection.  It is also a prime example of a good idea surviving changes in government. The previous Liberal government deserves credit for getting the project off the ground and for creating CyberNB to further the province’s potential in the sector. The current Progressive Conservative government deserves credit for continuing the good work being done as a result of those previous decisions. 

The Cyber Centre is a 145,000 sq ft, purpose-built, level 2 security building that will become home to multiple corporate leaders in cybersecurity as well as academia and government. The building is designed with the ability to operate in isolation for up to 96 hours in post-disaster scenarios and features several duplicate and backup systems including separate electrical rooms serviced by separate substations as well as two stand-alone power generation sources for backup power. With building construction entering its final stages, the building will soon house some of the most innovative organizations in the world. 

By engaging private, public and academic institutions with expertise in this sector into one shared and streamlined operating centre, this infrastructure will also attract new investment, skilled labour, and economic benefit to our region. The project will enable growth for existing corporations in our region such as IBM and Siemens, who have been strong supporters of the initiative. In fact, CyberNB anticipates the creation of more than 700 highly skilled and paid positions as a direct result of the Cyber Centre.  

The future is digital and unfortunately, so is crime. Given that reality, cyber security will be of  corresponding importance and the good news is that we have a head start to take advantage of the opportunities presented thanks to leadership with foresight. Let’s keep our foot on the pedal and expand capabilities in the province. This will require all levels of government working together and industry stepping up as well. Cyber crime isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, neither is cyber security and that’s just the kind of opportunity that we can leverage and grow. 

Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization with more than 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity’