Tech advocacy group advocates for tax measures to bolster cyber security ( Lobby Monitor News | Jesse Cnockaert )
A lobby group representing Canada’s technology and innovation sector is campaigning for federal tax incentives as a way of motivating companies to beef up their cybersecurity measures.
“There is precedent for this kind of assistance. We see this kind of tax break as being similar to [existing] tax incentives to invest in new technologies and techniques to improve manufacturing or assistance for firms to carry out research and development and create better products,” said John Reid, CEO of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) in a press statement.
CATA conducted a survey of about 200 Canadian corporations between January and April on the subject of cybersecurity, and one of the most common complaints reported by participants was that there isn’t enough support from the government to encourage cybersecurity adoption.
That issue was raised by between 40 to 50 per cent of respondents, according to Reid, who is listed as CATA’s senior officer for its file on the federal lobbyists’ registry.
Protecting businesses from cybercrime is a multi-billion dollar endeavour in Canada, with $14 billion spent in 2017 on prevention, detection and recovery from cybersecurity incidents, according to Statistics Canada.
Major cybercrime in 2017 included the data breach connected to Equifax, the credit reporting agency. More than 19,000 Canadian customers had their personal information stolen, which included credit card numbers, expiry dates and social insurance numbers.
In 2018, the Bank of Montreal also experienced a hacking incident, which affected the financial information of 50,000 customers. That same year, CIBC-owned Simplii Financial also saw its clients’ data stolen, with 40,000 clients affected.
CATA envisions a tax incentive program that would allow Canadian companies to recoup a percentage of the cost of investing in cybersecurity technologies and services, to make it easier for businesses to strengthen their protection against cyber security breaches.
As an example, Reid pointed to a cybersecurity tax credit that was introduced in the state of Maryland in U.S in 2018. The program offers a refundable income tax credit to investors that invest in the state’s cybersecurity companies.
Cybersecurity is about more than protecting data, according to Jean-Guy Rens, CATA’s vice-president and a senior partner a Sciencetech communications, a CATA partner. Canada has a growing number of industries using automation, which makes the physical infrastructure in businesses vulnerable to hackers with political, economic or even militaristic goals, according to Rens.
“The focus of our survey was very precise. It’s not cybersecurity in general; it’s the physical impact of cyber security,” said Rens. “Through cyber attacks you can stop a plant from working, you can paralyze an electric grid, things like that. It’s what I call the physical impact of cybersecurity.”
The full analysis of CATA’s cybersecurity survey, entitled “Cybersecurity in an Industry 4.0 Environment,” is expected to be made public this summer.
CATA’s campaign echoes a similar call for action from the Senate’s banking, trade and commerce committee, which released a report on cybercrime in October.
In the report, the committee recommended the federal government provide incentives for businesses to improve cybersecurity practices, such as by allowing accelerated capital cost allowance deductions for companies under the Income Tax Act when those companies invest in cybersecurity.
Aside from its cybersecurity survey, CATA has plans to advance its campaign through more research and partnerships with other organizations interested in cybercrime.
A CATA representative will be attending an international forum on cybercrime on May 22 in Washington, D.C. The forum, organized by the U.S.-based Cybercrime Support Network (CSN) will be a gathering of law enforcement groups, federal agencies, private sector leaders and non-governmental organizations to discuss ways to reduce the impact of cybercrime.
Canada has already taken steps to address the issue of cybersecurity. In 2018, the federal government launched the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, known as the Cyber Centre.
The Cyber Centre, part of the federal government’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), brings together cybersecurity experts from across the federal government under one roof to contend with cybersecurity issues. The centre is an initiative under Canada’s National Cyber Security Strategy.
“To date, the Cyber Centre has been providing targeted cybersecurity advice and guidance to Canada’s critical infrastructure partners, in addition to other government partners,” said Evan Koronewski, a media relations and public affairs official at the CSE in an email to The Lobby Monitor.
Since the launch, the Cyber Centre has published reports on cybersecurity, including a reference guide covering common cyber threats, hacker motivations, techniques and tools, as well as an assessment of cyber threats in 2018.
The Cyber Centre also published a document intended for small- and medium-sized organizations in Canada that included recommendations on how to improve cybersecurity.
The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance), Canada’s One Voice for Innovation Lobby Group and ‘political party’ for Canada’s tech industry, crowdsources ideas and guidance from thousands of opt in members in moderated social networks in Canada and key global markets. Supported by evidence-based research, CATAAlliance then mobilizes the community behind public policy recommendations designed to boost Canada’s innovation and competitiveness success.