Cybersecurity: France must beef up its strategy

Cybersecurity: France must beef up its strategy
Cybersecurity is one of the most dynamic area of the current tech scene. Its importance will soar with the Internet of Objects (IOT) and smart solutions. France has many talents to offer but has difficulty getting worldwide recognition. Experts demand more investments to correct this, fast.
Cybersecurity has taken center stage. In a hyper-connected world, cyber-attacks – varying in scale – are now an intricate part of a company’s life. The surge in smart objects, the adoption of smart city and smart grid, smart mobility, dematerialization of life and economy. Everything is connected.
The consequences of flaws in this ecosystem are more important every day.

« Startups are the ones bringing innovative solutions »

This ensures cybersecurity has glorious days ahead. France should not miss this opportunity. There was a recent startup summit organized by fellow journalists of Science et Avenir and Challenges. Two experts there discussed the place of the French Tech on the worldwide cyber-surveillance map.
Marc Watin-Augouard is one of the best-known cybersecurity advisors for politicians; Gérome Billois is a cybersecurity expert for Wavestone.
Both agree this field needs startups. Bigger groups bring solutions to uninformed pros and the general public. « Startups are the ones bringing innovative solutions and disruptive technologies » according to Marc Watin-Augouard.

France: nice talent pool with upscaling issues

Innovations come from start-ups and so do new answers to new threats. Having a fertile talent pool is vital to the ecosystem.
The USA and Israel lead the way in cybersecurity research. In France, about a hundred startups are dedicated to the security of the cyber world.
This lack of startups is not a problem. The problem is rather their size and difficulty upscaling. « The tough part in France is to make them bigger. These companies add up to barely 1000 employees. That’s 10 people per startup » explains Gérome Billois. Why? It’s too difficult to hire. « Needs in qualified workforce are greater than what schools and university can offer ».

The need to upgrade the training of younger people and change the image of cybersecurity jobs

France must acquire efficient training tools and not just rely on young self-trained « hackers ». These young people learn by analyzing code on their computer then decide to be White hats and stay on the lawful side. Still, this solitary-nerd-profile will always have its place in cybersecurity.
This booming sector must recruit more diverse talents – traditionally trained – and especially women. They represent only 10% of cybersecurity employees. To achieve this, there must be a real national effort to change the image of these jobs. « We need to get rid of the image of the individual in a hoodie working in a basement. Gérome Billois points out: « There are various profiles: some need technical knowledge, some require business management skills to imagine adaptative solutions ».

A dedicated incubator, the prerequisite to the creation of a solid branch

Besides helping existing startups to grow, France needs a cybersecurity incubator, either private or state-owned. The UK has two, France has none. « It is a problem for the acknowledgment of the branch. And also to attract fundings. In France, it’s easy to found a startup but hard to raise funds. We need to give cybersecurity some visibility » adds Gérome Billois.
French companies need to grasp the importance of this sector and its high – and financial – potential. They must choose to invest in dedicated startups. The return on investments can be very high. It would really be a shame if the pioneering French Tech couldn’t breed some world-level cybersecurity 2.0 champions.