Cybersecurity non-profit finds home in Ottawa suburb

Carleton University professor Tony Bailetti's dream of a business incubator to foster the country's cybersecurity industry is closer to reality.

Venus to address threats posed by cyberattacks with goal of making Canada a global leader in field

Tony Bailetti stands at the new cybersecurity non-profit location at the Old Cumberland town hall. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Tony Bailetti stands in what once housed a town council table and theatre, looking at the wide-open space that will become the VENUS Cybersecurity Corporation. Parts of the ceiling are missing and wires dangle. He knows they will have to be swept to make sure they're free of high-tech bugs.

Bailetti has helped create some 200 companies over the years through his engineering and business post at Carleton University, but this is his biggest venture yet.

"This will be the global headquarters of what we want to be the leader in the world of cybersecurity," said Bailetti.

The threat of hackers has gone far beyond credit card theft, Bailetti said. Criminals are finding it more and more lucrative to operate in cyberspace than to move contraband, for instance, in the real world. Spies are stealing billions of dollars worth of intellectual property from companies around the world, he noted. Governments, too, are infiltrating each others' computer networks, and even shutting them down.

Bailetti was looking for how Canadian innovators could step in and help build products or businesses to help companies and government departments protect their data and networks.

"The hackers are really innovators. They're smart people, who are all over the world, and they spend a significant amount of time and resources trying to figure out how to open up these systems for their own benefit," said Bailetti. "And we tend to be following behind."

Non-profit draws from private, public

The new non-profit business incubator was formally announced Tuesday by Ottawa politicians, a few months after Bailetti first presented the idea in an academic paper.

VENUS Cybersecurity Corporation — Virtual Environment for Networks of Ubiquitous Security — is a non-profit corporation, independent of government. The initial partners that will get it up and running however, are mostly government, including the City of Ottawa, Ontario government, Communications Security Establishment Canada, the National Research Council, as well as Telus. Each is investing up to $250,000 in cash and/or in-kind services. Eventually, VENUS should have an operating budget funded by memberships paid for by companies, Bailetti said.

The venture will create about 60 jobs at the facility in Orleans, in the former Cumberland town hall on Centrum Boulevard.

"It's great news from an economic development point of view and getting more people to work in the east end," said Ottawa mayor Jim Watson. "We have a job ratio challenge in the east end. A lot of people live in Orleans, but not as many people work in Orleans as in other parts of the city."

Bailetti dreams of fitting up the new centre to have an environment akin to Google workplaces. He thinks the proximity of daycares, the Shenkman Arts Centre, and a YMCA will be attractive to young high-tech workers.

They will be all new, little companies trying to meet cybersecurity needs. Bailetti said he has spoken with government departments about the gaps they have that he hopes the new ventures can fill.

Workers should move in by January

The first two dozen employees at VENUS should move into its facility by the end of November, Bailetti said. 

The other 35 employees should move in by January. They will focus on research and development, looking at technologies from other countries that can be used in Canada. They will also study cybersecurity issues and make recommendations to companies and government departments.

"All of this is state of the art," said Bailetti. "Remember that the goal of the whole thing is to make Canada a global leader."


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