CyberWal, for a cybersecure Wallonia

4 min leestijd

Cyber resilience is crucial for a prosperous society, a safe civilian community and a dynamic economy. CyberWal brings together all actors – industry, public authorities, academia and international players – to ensure a Walloon excellence in this field, driven by the enthusiasm of Prof. Alex Legay (UCLouvain). And with the participation of the Cyber Security Coalition.

Cooperation and dialogue across sectoral and national boundaries are key to success in the field of cybersecurity. Alex Legay, professor cybersecurity at UCLouvain, is responsible for establishing the CyberWal consortium, open to all actors who want to work together to meet the socio-economic needs of the Walloon region and Belgium, and to help position Wallonia as a centre of cyberexcellence in Europe. In short, to create a true ecosystem of cybersecurity.

Broad spectrum of members

In developing the Cyberwal initiative, prof. Alex Legay identified specific needs regarding the availability of trained personnel, as well as for solving real life security challenges and the sensibilization of the citizenry. In his drive to meet these needs, he brought together a broad-spectrum group of supporters in academia, training institutions, sector federations, poles of competitiveness, societal actors and public sector services.

Training

The key for future success is the training of top class experts in sufficient numbers. CyberWal aims to encourage people to pursue cybersecurity studies, while looking for hidden talents (with or without diplomas). In enterprises, employees must be supported to go for up-skilling or re-skilling, continuously throughout their careers. And of course, these trainings should be by the best possible experts.

Of interest is the ‘Mallette Cyber’ (Cyber Briefcase). In order to maximize the output and quality of trained experts, CyberWal envisages harmonized training courses, allowing students to follow a structured learning path, possibly at different institutions. Furthermore, this approach should avoid gaps in the expected knowledge of the graduates. In a first phase, a catalogue listing all courses and trainings on offer will be compiled.

At the kick-off event, Henallux (Julien Lecointre) provided an overview of their cybersecurity related bachelor and master studies.

Research & development

An extension of the training activities of universities and colleges is research and development of new cyberscurity technologies. CyberWal has the strong intention to focus on solutions to real life challenges as experienced by companies. Therefore, Cetic (Philippe Massonet) described a collective selection process, resulting in the research and development of technology building blocks suitable for real-life implementation in industries. It should lead to innovative commercial products and solution, offered by start-ups, with success throughout Europe.

International excellence

With solid experts, products and services, CyberWal not only wants to gain a strong competitive position in Europe. It also wants to attract customers to Wallonia. For example the European Space Agency (ESA).

Jean-Luc Trullemans, security advisor at ESA, explained why his organization already has a strong presence at Redu in the field of cybersecurity. At ESA, cybersecurity must protect the growing economic importance of the European space related industry (230K jobs, 9bn euro upstream, 70 bn euro downstream) against the growing threat landscape (e.g., interference, eavesdropping on signals, etc.). At the CyberWal kick-off site in Transinne (Redu), the ESA European Space Security & Education Centre (ESEC) is already engeged in activities of the ESA Cyber Security Backbone. The approved cybersecurity strategy (2022-2025) is planning for an expansion of these activities with the C-SOC (Cyber Security Operational Centre) and the SCCoE (Cyber Security Centre of Excellence). Clearly, customers of this calibre provide proof of their confidence in Wallonia as a reliable and solid provider of security expertise.

360 degrees support

At the kick-off, CyberWal was able refer to more than 100 actors working together in the new ecosystem, several of them expressing their interest and support for the initiative.

The Agence du Numérique (AdN) (Bénoît Hucq) pointed out how several of AdN’s initiatives in the Digital Wallonia 4 Cyber strategy finely mesh with the activities of CyberWal. Similarly, other public services indicated their complementarity as well, e.g. the VSSE (State Security) (Pascal Pétry) in the field of intelligence and security, and the Centre for Cyber Security Belgium (CCB) (Phédra Clouner) with e.g. the CERT.be service. Or to what extent they need strong cybersecurity in the execution of their (24/7) public services, e.g. the Agence pour une vie de qualité (AVIQ) (Jean-François Daune).

Of course, companies and enterprises are vital partners in the success of CyberWal, both by offering cyber security services, e.g. Approach (Lionel de Wasseige) or creating a strong demand for cyber security graduates.

A key enterprise player is Rhea group (Pascal Rogiest), as a driving force behind the development of the Galaxia/Rédu site within the CyberWal strategy. With a broad offering of services, the group has managed to build a strong position in the European space industry (e.g., UK Space Agency, EUMETSAT, etc.). In cooperation with Idelux and ESA, the Rhea Group created an efficient space & cybersecurity hub at the Galaxia site, with even more ESA cybersecuruty activities to come. The Rhea Group also has a training centre and a cyber range at this site.

In addition to individual companies, the Union Wallone des entreprises (Lisa Lombardi) provides Input and recommendations on the needs of enterprises, as an example of associations helping to promote collaboration.

Collaboration is also the main reason why the Cyber Security Coalition (presentation by Pascal Champagne) is an active member of the CyberWal consortium. “We have common interests, such as meeting the cybersecurity needs of enterprises, as well as bringing together competences, creating an ecosystem and going for more sensibilzation.

The CyberWal consortium resembles initiatives in France, the Netherlands and other countries, with proven track records. This bodes well for the future of this initiative, particularly as the need for cyberscurity skills and solution continues to grow. Therefore, CyberWal is looking for new members.

For more information, consult the CyberWal website.

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About the author

Guy Kindermans is a freelance journalist, specialized in information technology, privacy and business continuity. From 1985 to 2014 he was senior staff writer at Data News (Roelarta Media Group).