Shakeup at New Brunswick's cybersecurity promoter

Less than two years after Premier Brian Gallant announced his hiring, Allen Dillon has been fired as the head of CyberNB, a subsidiary of Opportunities New Brunswick, CBC News has learned.

Head of CyberNB, a subsidiary of Opportunities New Brunswick, sacked less than 2 years after starting

Allen Dillon is out as head of Cyber NB, a subsidiary of Opportunities New Brunswick set up to promote New Brunswick’s cybersecurity sector. (Twitter)

There's been a shakeup at the top of the provincial agency set up to promote New Brunswick's cybersecurity sector.

Less than two years after Premier Brian Gallant announced his hiring, Allen Dillon has been fired as the head of CyberNB, a subsidiary of Opportunities New Brunswick, CBC News has learned.

Three other top people have been pushed out of the organization, which the Liberal government has promoted as a key player in spurring growth in the sector.

"Yes, this is an evolution," Opportunities NB Stephen Lund said in an interview this week.

"There's been a lot of great things happening now. We're constantly evolving. We made a change in leadership."

Lund is also listed as the CEO of CyberNB.

He said the new chief operating officer, Tyson Johnson, who joined CyberNB in December, has "terrific experience in the cyber industry in Toronto. There's a lot of excitement there. You're going to see some announcements coming up."

Three other replacements

Deputy premier Stephen Horsman, left, Dillon, Premier Brian Gallant and Opportunities NB CEO Stephen Lund, when Dillon's hiring was announced. (GNB)

John Kershaw, a former deputy minister of education who was heading CyberNB's "CyberSmart" program, confirmed Tuesday he was among the three others pushed out.

Kershaw's role involved training students to develop a skilled workforce for the cybersecurity sector.

Kershaw said Dallas Jardine, who ran another program, was also fired, and Kim Lipsett, who was on secondment from a position in a government department, was sent back to that job.

Kershaw wouldn't comment on what prompted the changes, and Dillon could not be reached for comment. Dillon had been called CyberNB's managing director when he was hired, but his title was more recently listed as vice-president.

The Gallant Liberals have identified cybersecurity, an industry that helps companies and technology users protect their data from digital theft and disruption, as a cornerstone of its economic growth plan.

In his state of the province speech in January, Gallant said federal cabinet ministers who travel internationally told him that "they have people mentioning Fredericton, New Brunswick, as doing some amazing things when it comes to cyber security."

CBC News contacted several other people in the technology, startup and cybersecurity sectors in Fredericton who refused to comment on the shakeup.

Institute asks why

Ali Ghorbani, director of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick, wants to find out why Dillon was moved out. (CBC New Brunswick)

But Ali Ghorbani, director of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick, said he wants to find out what led to the changes.

"I do not know," he said. "We would like to know how to move forward." Ghorbani, who is on the advisory board of the CyberSmart program Kershaw was running, said he would be meeting with CyberNB officials later this week and hoped to learn more.

Dillon was recruited to head the agency in May 2016. He had been CEO of Sentrant, a startup cybersecurity firm based at the University of New Brunswick that made headlines for busting an online advertising fraud scheme.

Dillon "did a great job getting us to this stage," Lund said. "We've got a lot of great things in place. We're just taking it to the next step."

Lund pointed out the federal budget recently set aside $500 million in funding for cybersecurity.

"The ball's rolling and we think it's a great opportunity," he said.

Ottawa's budget didn't provide details on how that money would be distributed or whether the New Brunswick sector would be in line for any of it.

The institute at UNB received $2.3 million in federal funding last year and the province put in $2 million.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.