'Augmented Security' is key to filling Canada's cyber security talent gap

14 August 2018 Consulting.ca

The advancement of digital technology undoubtedly brings with it the susceptibility to cyber attacks, and this cyber risk has now gone so far as to act as a deterrent to incorporating the latest technology, according to a new report from Deloitte. The report details a new approach to shore up against cyber risks known as ‘augmented security.’

Just how much is the risk of cyber attacks hindering the progress of technology? According to Deloitte, the deterrent value of the cyber risk – given the magnitude of the consequences involved in a cyber attack – could slow the pace of global technological advancement by as much as $3 trillion over the next two years.

By technological advancement, Deloitte refers to the industry 4.0 paradigm, which entails the integration of a broad range of technologies such as Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data analysis, automation, and machine learning models into the daily functioning of a business, enabling massive improvements in speed and efficiency.The growing cyber risk gapEach of these comes with a plethora of benefits, but also with their individual issues. Artificial intelligence, for instance, is widely regarded with apprehension due to its potential to displace large sections of the workforce. Most of these technologies, however, are susceptible to attacks in the cyber realm.

So firms that wish to adopt industry 4.0 technologies must also invest heavily in cybersecurity capabilities, and some are doing so. However, most struggle with the overwhelming magnitude of cyber risks, unaware of the various dimensions of the risk and the precise improvements required to avoid them.

The report details how the new paradigm of industry 4.0 makes life riskier for firms. For starters, nearly all of these technologies rely on the collection and subsequent proliferation of data and economic value on the online domain, leaving it open to access from anyone with the technical know-how. In some cases, this involves the personal and financial data of consumers, of which there have been numerous high-profile breaches over the past years.Demand for cyber talent in CanadaAnother interesting dimension pointed out by Deloitte is the fact that hackers themselves now have a greater amount of access to more sophisticated technologies, which increases their reach and scope. Add to that the mounting pressure from an increasingly restrictive regulatory framework, and organisations are at a loss about how to deal with cybersecurity in general.

Deloitte’s solution to this problem places talented professionals at its core, advocating that devoting a specialized team of cybersecurity experts to tackle various aspects of the threat is an effective strategy. Many Canadian businesses already appear to have understood the value of people in this scenario.

According to the report, there is currently demand for nearly 23,000 cyber professionals in Canada, a number that will surpass 24,500 by next year and will reach as high as 28,000 by 2021. These figures are sourced by Deloitte from the Information and Communications Technology Council and Statistics Canada.Augmented SecurityHaving placed people at the centre, Deloitte then goes on to advocate an Augmented Security model, which is a multidimensional guideline of sorts for organisations wishing to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity infrastructure. The model essentially involves the usage of technology itself in a smart way to tackle cyber threats.

For instance, one aspect Augmented Security would involve AI and machine learning based detection of threats. Another involves the automation of repetitive tasks that are associated with cyber security, thereby reducing risk of error. Augmented Security also involves the adoption of cloud-based delivery models, which give a firm greater control over its operations.

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Canadian CEOs less optimistic in 2019, PwC survey finds

14 March 2019 Consulting.ca

Accounting and consulting firm PwC’s 22nd Global CEO survey has found that Canadian CEOs are less optimistic about their companies’ growth prospects, as well as the health of the global economy. 

Echoing the widespread belief that the business cycle is entering a recessionary phase, 62% of surveyed Canadian CEOs said global economic growth will decline or stay the same this year, compared to last year’s proportion of 28%, when the Canadian economy was riding high on 3% GDP growth and record low unemployment.

Following this pessimistic economic outlook, only 40% of Canadian CEOs said they are very confident about their company’s prospects for revenue growth over the next three years - 4% more than global CEOs.  

The perceived threats to company growth are the common suspects, namely skills shortages, trade difficulties and protectionism, and cyberattacks.Of Canada’s CEO respondents, 88% were somewhat or extremely concerned about the availability of key skills, while 84% were concerned about trade conflicts, protectionism, and cyber threats, and 79% were worried about policy uncertainty. Canadian CEOs were more concerned with threats facing their organization’s growth than the global average.

Threats to growth, and an increasingly inward-looking approach

With increasing trade troubles, protectionist tendencies, and general diplomatic tensions emanating from the US, UK, and China, Canadian CEOs seem to be looking inward for growth. When asked which three foreign countries are the most important to Canadian firms’ growth prospects, the US’ share dropped from 88% in 2018 to 60% in 2019, the UK’s share fell from 30% to 16%, and China’s share plummeted from 53% to 12%. Only Mexico saw increased interest, increasing from 7% in 2018 to 12% in 2019.

"As Canadian CEOs increasingly look inward for growth opportunities against a tough global economic backdrop, the pressure to transform their businesses has never been greater," Nicolas Marcoux, PwC Canada's CEO, said. "The shift away from China and the US creates a golden opportunity for Canadian businesses and governments to collaborate in order to enhance our country's attractiveness for investment. Coming together to get upskilling right is a key step in a multi-pronged approach to help us secure a greater piece of the global economic pie — for the benefit of all Canadians."

Canada’s CEOs are concerned with the availability of important skills in their industry, with 88% saying so versus 51% in 2018. Additionally, 84% agreed that artificial intelligence (AI) will significantly change their business within the next five years, though only 40% say AI is present in their organization to some extent. Only 7% said it is present widely.

Closing the skills gap

Unfortunately, Canadian CEOs have a somewhat unenlightened approach to bridging the talent gap, be it for these tantalizing emerging technology fields, or other tech or non-tech skills. Of those surveyed, 41% said establishing a strong pipeline direct from education is the most important method to close a potential skills gap in their firm, while only 16% picked “significant retraining or upskilling.” The views of Canadian CEOs are completely inverted to those of global CEOs, of whom 17% chose a direct education pipeline, while 46% identified retraining and upskilling.

It’s a more callous approach, treating people trained for a different world as so much detritus, and simply replacing them with youth pumped out of an educational system attempting to align more with future talent needs. That’s a problem, especially as nearly half of Canadian CEOs believe that AI technology will displace more jobs than it creates.  

“Digital proficiency has to rise across the organization – and CEOs need to create an environment to drive this change,” the PwC report states. “Digital workforce transformation requires new knowledge, different skills, and an entirely fresh mindset, so it’s time to empower everyone to transform the way they work.”