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Why New Brunswick is Wired to Lead in Cybersecurity

As a member of the c-suite, cybersecurity is increasingly top-of-mind. It’s a topic that is discussed daily at boardroom tables around the world. It’s a threat and a risk that every member of your team is trying to mitigate.  New Brunswick is building quite a network of cybersecurity experts and expertise. In fact, some would say that New Brunswick is now wired to lead in this field, with IBM announcing that it is expanding its New Brunswick footprint by growing its IBM Security Division and IT Services Centre.

IBM is just one of the organizations taking the lead on cybersecurity. Back in June 2014, IBM’s Security Systems Division signed a collaborative research agreement with the Information Security Centre of Excellence (ISCX) at the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

Opportunities NB (ONB) wanted to learn more so we spoke with Sandy Bird, IBM Fellow and Chief Technology Officer, IBM Security Systems Division.

ONB: What can you tell us about the agreement that IBM Security Systems Division signed with UNB?

Sandy Bird - CTO - IBMBird: It is really a continuation of research that we had previously started under Q1 Labs before we became a part of IBM. It was extremely successful relationship and we found a number of projects that we could bring right through to commercialization. All of the people involved at the Centre at UNB are extremely knowledgeable and skilled in this field.

When we became a part of IBM, we saw the potential to bring this collaboration with us. It’s all about connecting private sector with the brilliant minds of academia — whether researchers or students. Working together means that we are really creating active and innovative environments, which benefits us all. Naturally, industry is benefiting from all the work that we are doing together. 

We have also found that by working with students we are adding to the pool of incredibly talented people who can work anywhere in the world. Often times we see that the larger organizations access the available resources more quickly. It then becomes more difficult for the smaller organizations to get resources. As a result of the work that we are doing with UNB, we are helping to overcome this issue.

ONB: Do you work with other research groups like UNB? If so, how does New Brunswick compare?

Bird: In my role I get to collaborate with people around the world — phenomenal researchers and research facilities. For example, we work with the Cybersecurity Labs at Ben Guiron University in Israel and Georgia Tech in Atlanta. 

The ISCX is phenomenal at what it does. Based on our experience with them, we know that we can trust them. Sentrant (formerly Ara Labs)—recognized with the 2014 KIRA Award for Most Promising Startup—emerged from ISCX.

ONB: Speaking of startups and more mature organizations like IBM, what is happening in New Brunswick? Based on all the activity we appear to have a solid cluster of cybersecurity companies.

Bird: New Brunswick researchers and companies are taking an aggressive approach to the issues of cybersecurity and the protection of operationally-critical infrastructure. We most definitely have a strong startup cluster and we continue to develop our emerging, but very strong sector. 

ONB: Prior to your role with IBM, you were a part of the startup Q1 Labs, which was built here in New Brunswick. Why do you think New Brunswick is so well-equipped to be leaders in this area?

Bird: Having worked with people around the globe I can say that we have great people here who are extremely smart. We have phenomenal universities with tremendously talented people like Dr. Ali Ghorbani, UNB’s Faculty of Computer Science Dean, guiding students and making things happen at the University. 

There is really nothing that is stopping us. We have all the right components for success – talent, expertise and a growing critical mass. We can compete with any company based anywhere in the world. 

From a talent perspective, when we were Q1 Labs, we found a lot of people who either didn’t want to move away, or wanted to move back to raise their families. The quality of life here is unsurpassed. I also believe that UNB plays a significant role in making sure that its graduates have the right skills.

ONB: Finally, what is it that keeps you here in New Brunswick? You could be anywhere with your skills and expertise?

Bird: That’s an interesting question. I assumed that when we started Q1 that I would have to move outside the province at some point. I was travelling a lot and after a few years I realized that I wanted to stay in New Brunswick. It took me a few years of travelling to realize that our quality of life here is extraordinary.

With more than 6,000 security engineers and consultants worldwide, IBM Security Systems is the only vendor in the market with end-to-end coverage of the security foundation. With a significant (and growing) presence in New Brunswick, IBM Security Systems is a key player in the province’s cybersecurity industry.

Be sure to check out yesterday’s interview with IBM Canada President, Dino Trevisani.

Want to learn more about New Brunswick and how your organization can be wired for success? Click the button below to connect with one of ONB’s Business Development Executives.

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