Cybersecurity is at the forefront of most business discussions and planning sessions these days. Being proactive and prepared is now a staple for success. New Brunswick is taking a focused approach to cybersecurity and working with industry and academia to really push the cybersecurity agenda.

Today, IBM announced that it was expanding its New Brunswick footprint by growing its IBM Security Division and IT Services Centre. Leading up to this exciting news, we had a chance to sit down with IBM Canada President Dino Trevisani to talk trends, issues, and why New Brunswick is an important part of their plans.

ONB: Tell us a little about yourself. We know that you are from Hamilton and that you have worked around the world, but what is it like to head up IBM Canada?

IBM New Brunswick Trevisani: Yes, born and raised in Hamilton. My 28-year IBM career has been characterized by diverse leadership roles, many involving deep expertise in financial services and management, coupled with geographic and global executive assignments. And of course, I’m a father of three – two daughters and a son.

I’m so proud now to be back in Canada. Together we’re building on IBM Canada’s great legacy of innovation. I believe there is a critical role for industry to play as the bridge in sparking innovation and productivity. An industry focus can help create this notion of a knowledge worker export economy. Powered by collaboration with provincial and federal governments, along with academia, IBM is serving as the conduit to bring to bear this talent — these knowledge workers — to help clients all over the world harness cognitive computing and the solutions that underpin it — mobile, analytics, cloud, and security.

ONB: IBM’s presence has certainly been growing in New Brunswick. Tell us about that experience.

Trevisani: Proud to say that it has, and it begins with IBM’s rich history of security innovation in New Brunswick, through the birth of Q1 Labs with the University of New Brunswick, as well as through a successful partnership with McCain Foods.

IBM officially acquired Q1 Labs back in 2011, where our QRadar Security Intelligence Platform was developed in partnership with the University of New Brunswick. This was a pivotal turning point for us, as it brought IBM’s security division to life. Now, it’s a $2 billion growing business, employing 7,500 researchers, developers and security experts across 36 locations worldwide. Its state-of-the-art technology, such as automatically detecting, flagging and compromising suspicious and/or malicious behaviour, serves a diverse range of clients around the world, including healthcare providers, financial institutions, retail businesses and more.

Our work with McCain Foods Limited on IT services has grown to help drive the creation of local, high-value IT jobs and the development of high-value skills in smaller communities such as Florenceville-Bristol. Our current technology services delivery centre, in collaboration with McCain Foods Limited, operates globally with system infrastructure support, resiliency, security and mobility services.

Today’s announcement between IBM and Opportunities NB is another leaping milestone — deeply embedding talent and industry leadership in IT technology services and security. We’re extremely excited for the opportunities ahead of us and look forward to further helping advance the Province’s, and Canada’s, leadership in front of the world.

ONB: IBM has a reputation not only for excellence, but being a workplace of choice as noted by your recognition by Randstad. Tell us about that and how it fits with New Brunswick’s reputation for quality of life?

Trevisani: Since the inception of the Randstad award for Most Attractive Employer, IBM Canada has ranked among the top five companies. Last year, it was such an honour to be ranked in the number one spot. At our core, IBM’s most important innovation has remained the ‘IBMer’. Even as we continue to reinvent ourselves and meet the needs of our clients and the marketplace, we recognize the importance of staying true to our core values dedication to our client’s success, innovation that matters and trust and personal responsibility in all relationships. People want to work on things that matter to make a difference in the world, and that rings true regardless of where you live and work.

ONB: Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about cybersecurity. Despite all the conversations, and somewhat disturbing news reports around cybersecurity threats, businesses continue to have a real blind spot when it comes to taking the steps needed. What do you attribute this to?

Trevisani: Cybercrime is the 21st century organized crime, and it’s become one of today’s biggest challenges in the cybersecurity landscape. Cyberattacks are driven by highly skilled and highly organized crime rings in which data tools and expertise is widely shared. It’s now one of the largest illegal economies with $445 billion in annual illegal profits and brokering one billion-plus pieces of personally identifiable information per year.

According to last year’s Ponemon Institute study on the cost of data breaches in Canada, the average per capita cost of a data breach is $250 and the average total organizational cost is $5.32 million. What’s more, our latest IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence report indicates cybercriminals’ targets are now bigger and their rewards greater as they fine-tune efforts to obtain and leverage higher value data. Criminal groups are establishing larger, shared infrastructures to deploy campaigns on a global scale — indicative of their increasing level of sophistication.

One of the key ways to help employers overcome the growing cyber pandemic is through industry collaboration. While cybercriminals develop elaborate networks and capabilities to share malicious tools and data with each other, security teams are often trying to fight back on their own.

Employers need to work together too and the industry is beginning to recognize it. IBM launched the IBM X-Force Exchange in April, a cloud-based threat sharing network, which shares and communicates threat intelligence data, such as vulnerabilities. And more recently, IBM launched the IBM Security App Exchange in December, opening up our security analytics platform, and allowing the sharing of applications and content by the “good guys,” working together to outthink the “bad guys”.

ONB: Does the increasing use of technology, particularly with such things as mobile payments, make us more vulnerable to risk, or do cybersecurity tools do a good job of keeping up with the latest technologies? And how does the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) change security concerns?

Trevisani: Business leaders need to understand cybersecurity is more than just increasing the use of technology. It’s about properly identifying and assessing the risks to an organization, ensuring employees are adequately trained and educated about these risks, and that stricter policies and response plans are implemented to manage these risks. Technology alone can only do so much.

The proliferation of Internet of Things has caused significant security concerns for enterprises and consumers, leading to more physical disruptions and new solutions. Recent news and reports tell us hackers are now targeting cars, televisions, toys, smartphones and wearable devices – cybercriminals are getting more creative. With each new device comes another endpoint and another door to access proprietary data and other sensitive information. 

It’s important to note that benefits and conveniences out of the advent of IoT are undeniable. IoT systems that support manufacturing, energy, transportation, and other industrial sectors of the economy are becoming more connected to enable broader visibility, control and condition-based maintenance. But the point is, while recognizing all of these benefits, we have to be extra mindful of the realities — including vulnerabilities — that come along with it.

ONB: Clearly IBM is world-renowned for its role in cybersecurity and your location here in Fredericton, New Brunswick plays a pivotal role in that. Tell us about your centre here, its people, and their expertise?

Trevisani: Our location in Fredericton is one of IBM’s major innovation hubs in tackling cybersecurity challenges across the globe.

The acquisition of Q1 Labs, founded right here in Fredericton, really cemented IBM Canada’s role and leadership in security. As noted, it’s now a $2 billion entity, employing 7,500 researchers, developers and security experts across 36 locations worldwide — and proving to be hotbeds for new talent. IBM maintains a research development and customer support centre in Fredericton, which provides support for more than 5,000 customers around the globe.

The extension of our IT services centre and the growth of our security footprint in Fredericton also provides local access to end-to-end IT consulting and business services supported by an unparalleled global delivery network that is transforming its business to lead in an era of Cognitive and Cloud.

This is a positive and important step forward in a long-term plan to foster economic growth and competitiveness in New Brunswick. We’re committed to developing essential ‘future economy’ IT and security technology skills and working with our new employees, clients and partners to build on this tremendous opportunity to grow jobs and stimulate growth in the province.

ONB: As a follow-up to that last question, why Fredericton and why New Brunswick?

Trevisani: IBM has an enduring commitment in Canada to meaningful progress – to finding better ways to do things that matter. That means continuous investment and invention, like the economic development investment we announced today. But clearly, IBM has a choice where it puts new jobs and the market is very competitive. We like to put a collaborative stake in the ground together with clients and public sector partners. Open ecosystems and these types of investments and economic development collaborations are key to future innovation. This investment will help lay the foundation for continued work with the University of New Brunswick and client partners like McCain Foods Ltd to progress our security industry and research collaboration, and embed the necessary skills for future jobs into tomorrow’s knowledge workers and business leaders right here in New Brunswick.

ONB: New Brunswick is really taking a focused approach to cybersecurity and really pursuing the world’s leading experts in the area of cybersecurity while ensuring that government, academia and the private sector are working closely together. In your opinion, does that position New Brunswick as a leader in this field?

Trevisani: Globally, IBM considers its location in Fredericton as a key innovation hub for cybersecurity and IT services. We have a rich history of driving security innovation in New Brunswick, through the birth of Q1 Labs in 2011 with the University of New Brunswick, and collaborating with McCain Foods.

As I mentioned before, industry collaboration in cybersecurity is imperative to outthink cyber criminals. We’re entering into a rapidly evolving digital landscape — heading first into a new cognitive era. Challenges will be new and even more complex. New Brunswick has been such an exemplar in this scenario — this idea of the good guys working together to defeat the bad guys. We’ve worked and will continue to work vigorously with Opportunities NB, the University of New Brunswick, and McCain to catapult the Province’s reputation for cultivating a knowledge-worker economy.

We are gaining momentum as the world’s fastest-growing enterprise security business due to our differentiation in leveraging the skills, strengths and expertise of our partners and helping clients apply security intelligence across their infrastructure, applications, cloud, mobile devices, and more.  

ONB: Now, thinking ahead, what do you think will be some of the top issues that we should be looking at later in 2016?

Trevisani: The IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence report released earlier this year analyzed the trends and data from 2015 as a harbinger of what’s to come in 2016. The report found in many ways that cybercrime has grown up and gone “corporate” in the last year. Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Shift to High-Value Data: While credit cards are still attractive, the research team saw a shift away from smash and grab theft to more lucrative, and harder to recover, personally identifiable information (PII). With more than 100M healthcare records breached in 2015, X-Force found that high-value data such as social security numbers and healthcare records can fetch significantly more on the underground, providing a platform for everything from ID Theft to extortion, to fodder to further social engineering for larger targets. And for credit cards, groups are targeting smaller businesses and lightly defended retail “satellites” in the hospitality industry via restaurants and gift shops and other tourist sites. 
  • Cybercrime Gets Corporate Sophistication & Investments: Bigger gangs, broader reach and more shared infrastructure (Crimeware-as-a-Service) for one-stop-shopping and execution of longer and more invasive campaigns. X-Force also saw criminal groups investing to enter new, harder-to-penetrate geographies, including recent upticks in regional attacks in Japan, Turkey, and France.
  • Malware Innovation & Evolution: Malware makers innovated and evolved at a furious pace, rapidly shuffling the malware top 10 lists with new iterations of code and cranking up the volume of malvertising and ransomware. Malware leaps across target countries are indicative of increasing sophistication and organization in crime rings because they require more than simple changes to configuration files.

Cybersecurity now plays an integral role in all business activities and working with excellent industry partners such as IBM is an important part of the work that ONB is doing. We thank Dino Trevisani for taking the time to sit with us and talk about New Brunswick and this exciting field of work.

Written by Heather MacLean

All images via IBM Canada