Dr Eoin Byrne: Cyber security sector set to take off

A new cyber-security cluster has set its sights on more than doubling the size of the industry in Ireland in the coming years.

Deloitte once highlighted Ireland as a country primed to attract some significant cybersecurity investment in the coming years, with well-qualified graduates, with an English-speaking workforce along with its proximity to Europe all among the aspects in the country’s favour.

Recognising the opportunity, a number of well-placed multi-nationals and academic bodies have pooled resources and, backed by IDA Ireland, are working to ensure that the country makes the most of the potential for new job creation and innovation.

Cyber Ireland, supported by IDA Ireland and facilitated by Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), is aiming to ensure this continues for the foreseeable future.

The national cluster launched late last year and was met with considerable interest, according to those involved. Local, national and international media coverage greeted the announcement of the initiative, which aims to provide a collective to voice to represent the needs of the cybersecurity sector across the country.

Dónal Travers, head of the Enterprise Technology Group, IDA Ireland; Dr Eoin Byrne, senior researcher, CIT; and Victoria MacKechnie, technology group manager, IDA Ireland;

It will address key challenges in the sector, including skills needs, research and the development of a national community which connects industry, academia and government.

Globally, the cybersecurity sector will be valued at $250 billion within five years, rapidly evolving to tackle the $600 billion which high tech crime is costing companies around the world.

Cybersecurity has taken hold all over Ireland, though its strongest hubs are in Cork, Dublin and Galway.

Household names like Intel, Dell EMC and IBM are all in the game, with countless others being drawn to the sector all the time.

Ireland’s universities have been quick to get involved, a move which has only buoyed the sector. CIT has a dedicated cybersecurity qualification, with data analytics, hardware-specific and cyber-crime equivalents popping up in other cities too.

CIT will drive the development of the national cluster.

Dr Eoin Byrne, a senior researcher at the college, is leading the development of the cluster. He said that the opportunities are there for significant growth in the coming years.

Despite the growing importance of protecting against cybersecurity threats, a recent industry survey by PwC found that a huge number of businesses are ill-prepared to protect themselves and their customers.

According to the company’s Digital Trust Insights survey, just half of medium and large businesses are building resilience to cyber attacks, with fewer than half saying that they have actually tested their resilience against potential hacks.

Dr Byrne commented that the coordinated efforts of Cyber Ireland can link many of these businesses to their peers and, indeed, to academic bodies conducting research in the sector to answer these challenges as they emerge.

“We have been engaging with more than 20 companies in a wide variety of sectors,” he said.

“This isn’t unique to one area. Every company has cybersecurity needs. It is a massive issue. Every day, we are hearing about breaches and hacks and other issues and the needs are there to be filled.”

By working closely with those at the coalface, Dr Byrne said that Cyber Ireland can ensure that issues are resolved as they emerge.

That could be in terms of recognising a shortage of skills in a particular area, he said, but also in term of ensuring that security research and innovation continues.

The aims, as set out by Cyber Ireland at its launch late last year, extend to ensuring that Ireland retains its competitiveness internationally and that cross-industry collaboration grows.

“We have workshops due in Cork, Galway and Dublin in February. This will allow us to continue to get the message out there.

"It has been reported already there are 6,000 people working in the sector and I believe that this includes at least 2,000 in Cork,” Dr Byrne said. “The wider issue is sustaining this growth.”

Industry experts have warned that the cybersecurity sector faces the challenge of sustaining growth in the coming years.

An estimated 3.5 million jobs are expected to emerge internationally in the next five years, with Forbes magazine estimating that there could be a shortage of almost two million skilled workers by 2022.

Dr Byrne said there is scope to train some 6,000 people to fill gaps that will emerge in the industry in Ireland alone in the coming years, doubling the number working in the sector in the country.

“We need to make sure existing professionals and new ones have the expertise to discuss cybersecurity at boardroom level, so that companies know if they are under-investing or what else is needed,” he added.

Already, there are 40 multinationals are operating in the sector in Ireland, as well as dozens of SMEs. 2018 saw huge numbers of jobs announced throughout the country, with Cork city and county having picked up a huge number of these.

CIT campus.

In March 2018, Keeper Security announced that Cork would be its EMEA HQ, announcing 50 jobs in the process. Just a few weeks later, Forcepoint followed suit, announcing the creation of 100 jobs in the process. They joined the likes of Trend Micro, AlientVault, FireEye, McAfee, VMware, Keeper Security, eSentire, Malwarebytes, Sophos and more, in the region.

The Cyber Ireland cluster is supported by a number of leading cyber security and technology firms in Ireland, who called for the establishment of the cluster to represent industry needs and address key challenges. These include Johnson Controls International, Dell EMC, IBM, McAfee, McKesson and Trend Micro.

When announcing the formation of the cluster, Donal Sullivan, VP and General Manager of Johnson Controls International, said:

We are seeing a profound transformation in our digital lives and environment.

"The security of connected objects and cyber-physical systems, advances brought about by artificial intelligence or data-centric security are three examples of major challenges and opportunities.

"To ensure the continued growth, sustainability and international competitiveness of cyber security firms in Ireland, there is a need to support industry and address certain challenges.

"Cyber Ireland provides a unique opportunity to co-ordinate the many organizations involved in cyber security in Ireland and position the country as a global leader.”

Sector is set to double job numbers

Already, there are 6,000 people employed in cybersecurity in Ireland. Cyber Ireland estimates the sector could as much as double in the coming years.

Many of these roles are already available, with these companies hiring at present.

Here are just a few of those looking for talent in the sector:

AlienVault, originally from California, occupies one of the prime slots in the Capitol development in the heart of Cork city. The company creates open source solutions to manage cyberattacks and is still seeking staff in technical support, sales and engineering.

Web email security company FireEye has branches in Cork and Dublin and has open positions in both in a variety of fields, including technical support, sales, front and back end development, and cyber security analytics.

Keeper Security, which announced the opening of its EMEA HQ in Cork last year, is still looking to fill some roles. The company, from Chicago, is hiring software engineers.

Tenable, the creator of the world’s most widely deployed IT vulnerability assessment solution, Nessus, created its Dublin HQ in 2017, announcing 100 jobs at the time. The company is still adding to its employment base here.

Symantec, the creator of Norton AntiVirus, is now hiring a handful of new staff in Ireland, including some in the area of cloud computing.


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