The State Of CyberSecurity And Innovation In Ireland And The EU | A Dialogue With Brendan Bonner & John Durcan


Guests: Brendan Bonner | John Durcan
Host: Sean Martin

This episode of At The Edge is made possible by the generosity of our sponsors,
Interfocus and Nintex.


Far too often, as an industry, we (the cybersecurity professionals) tend to talk about security with other security professionals as opposed to a larger group of people outside of the industry. The challenge with this is that we end up missing out on driving a culture of security into the rest of the business, and we lost out on understanding how cybersecurity can help the business beyond keeping things from hitting the fan.

Wouldn’t it be good if we could cross that bridge such that we all have a good picture for what’s important for the business — and ultimately for humanity and the societies for which we create?

What if, for example, at the same that we’re researching and developing a new medical technology designed to improve the health of humans, we also look at the cybersecurity, cyberprivacy, and cybersafety elements of this new invention? What if we take that up one more notch to teach students at all levels that this is paramount and that these “cyber” elements shouldn’t be an afterthought, but part of the mindset and culture of each person and the organization for which they work?

While I may be a bit aggressive — and may even be, perhaps, presenting a utopian view for which we are from realizing — these are some of the main drivers underneath a conversation I had earlier this year with Brendan Bonner, Chief Technologist — Technology, Content and Business Services at IDA Ireland, and John Durcan, Senior Technologist at Enterprise Ireland.

I wanted to get their collective view on the state of technology, cybersecurity, and privacy in Ireland and the rest of the European Union in connection with other innovations and industries in which both entities invest heavily.

You’re in luck with this podcast. Because we had such an engaging conversation, this podcast warrants two parts. One part for the drive/ride into work — the other for the return home.

Part 1: The roles of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in the areas of innovation, technology and cybersecurity and the value of investing in cybersecurity education, talent growth, international policy, and binding ethics with technology and society. Some of the specific topics discussed:

In general, we’re seeing a move in Europe where it’s about the citizen and their information and that their information has value and is important to them.
— John Durcan, Enterprise Ireland
One big advantage of being a small island is that you can have lots of different experiences and foundations working together to build a new picture; people working in cybersecurity have likely worked in other industries. For example, there’s an overlap between humanities and IT that enables the two to identify the risk to humanity and to work on the IT systems to protect against the threats.
— Brendan Bonner, IDA Ireland
  • Horizon 2020 in Ireland and Horizon Europe 2021-2027, which calls explicitly for ethical secure artificial intelligence

  • The synergies and collaboration between Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland

  • Collaboration amongst industry, academia, law enforcement, government, and the community

  • The launch of Cyber Ireland and other similar clusters designed to formally connect industry with the rest of the ecosystem

  • The launch of a government-lead disruptive technology innovation fund

  • The value of the R&D ecosystem in Ireland to drive meaningful connections between the human element and technology

  • Several examples of how different technologies — such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain — are being used to make an impact on society

  • Initiatives designed to improve the lives of the citizens, including those driven by smart city innovations

  • Ireland is positioned as a leader in the EU in relation to ethical development and use of artificial intelligence research and education

Have a listen.

Part 2: In part 2 of this At The Edge podcast, we continue to look at the state of cybersecurity in Europe with a deeper dive into the state of cybersecurity Ireland.

As John Durcan reviews organizations and examines their business ideas and supporting technology, he's seeing more companies tying in the security piece right from the beginning. Companies are finally grasping the concept that it's better to bring information security into the conversation as early as possible. For example, many are looking at implementing a ‘secure by design’ model from the company's inception and leveraging application security best practices as the product is developed.

“There’s no reason now for a company not to start building security into their product.”
— John Durcan, Enterprise Ireland

I also personally witnessed some trends first-hand where companies in Ireland are leading with security as a differentiator. As John and Brendan confirm during our chat, this not only helps organizations win new business when engaging with their prospects but also helps them compete with some of the larger organizations in their space. Embracing security as a value is especially helpful for small and medium enterprises tasked with responding to third-party assessment requests from their business partners.

If you can’t answer the ‘why,’ maybe you shouldn’t do it that way.
— Brendan Bonner, IDA Ireland

As the conversation continues, we get additional details from John and Brendan regarding the Cyber Ireland Cluster and what it means to do business in Ireland. Ultimately, it's all about the talent in Ireland and attracting new inbound talent while keeping the existing resources current and fresh as the InfoSec market continues to grow.

The responsibility for growing talent moves well beyond Irish businesses, of course. Therefore, we decide to take a look at current and future programs implemented throughout the educational system in Ireland. Most of the program goals are two-fold: keep Irish talent current and bring new talent into Ireland.

John and Brendan point to several initiatives in the primary and secondary school levels, while also citing initiatives geared toward keeping the interest level up to where it often drops off between the ages of 14 and 18. If they don't stay interested, they won't join the workforce. Recognizing and overcoming this challenge appears to be a top priority.

We wrap up the conversation with some final thoughts from John and Brendan, but not before they provide their views on Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain—are these technologies snake oil or reality?

Listen up to hear their answers.

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