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Nanaimo-area IT firm looks for local talent to help industries fend off cyberattacks

Lantzville-based aDolus Technology hires VIU IT graduates for research and development
Graham White, VIU ITAS department chair and program professor, middle, works with students Shayne Murray, left, and Tony Johnson during a lab focused on setting up IT networks. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Demand for cybersecurity services are ramping up as banks corporations, government agencies, major utilities and even medical services are targeted by ransomware attacks and malicious hackers.

Lantzville-based aDolus Technology Inc., which specializes in industrial cyberattack countermeasures, has caught the attention of investors and potential new customers.

READ ALSO: Lantzville-based cyber-security start-up wins $135K innovation competition

In October, which was Cybersecurity Awareness Month in Canada, aDolus announced more than $3 million was raised from private investors to expand its sales and marketing and research and development departments after the company brought in as chief executive officer Rod Campbell, a finance professional with senior executive experience experience with insurance, investment banking and technology businesses.

The company also hired Jeff Rosen, experienced in technology and cybersecurity sales, as vice-president of sales and business development and plans to hire more sales people in the coming months.

“Until the summer, the only real salesperson was me, who was also trying to be … chief technology officer and chief executive officer,” said Eric Byres, aDolus founder and chief technical officer. “It’s typical in a small company, you end up wearing many hats. Now it’s time to professionalize that.”

Byres said aDolus is growing its research and development department and regularly hunts for talent from Vancouver Island University’s information and technology applied systems program for aDolus and previous IT companies Byres has started.

VIU’s ITAS program has operated since 1999 and offers diplomas in systems administration and web and mobile development and has spots for about 100 students per year.

“For us it’s a phenomenal resource of talent and what’s cool is some of that talent is talent I hired a decade ago who’ve now gone on to get masters degrees and are very senior researchers and consultants in security. It’s really fun to see these students grow into internationally known experts,” Byres said.

Graham White, VIU ITAS department chair and program professor, said the new curriculum is putting more focus on cybersecurity work.

“We’ve been really focusing a lot more on specialized skill sets … [with] which our students are graduating and then ending up in companies like [aDolus], doing cybersecurity and industrial cybersecurity and so on,” White said. “So, in terms of projects, what we’ve been doing is a massive IT curriculum expansion and then building out these co-op relationships with local employers and remote employers, as well, across the world.”

Students become proficient in current techniques and technologies to prepare them to work in a wide range of areas, from network engineering to working with airline flight booking systems or credit card payment software and emerging cybersecurity specializations.

“We’re developing courses and curriculum to train our students how to combat … ransomware, hacking and data theft and all these other nasty things that are going on these days,” White said. “That’s a big part of our focus … and we’re getting some cybersecurity experts to help us build those courses.”

ADolus specializes in securing critical industrial infrastructure control software, such as power generation against cyberattack, and providing cybersecurity to software associated with manufacturing supply chains. Byres, an industrial control systems engineer, said manufacturers are often aggregators of software supplied with components needed to assemble products, such as vehicles.

Malware can be slipped into software anywhere in a supply chain, as happened with the SolarWinds cyberattack in 2020 that created security breaches in U.S. government agencies that went undetected for months. Byres said the SolarWinds attack changed the cybersecurity marketplace and put a strong focus on supply chain vulnerability. ADolus, he said, is currently talking with a large heavy equipment and electronics manufacturer, aerospace firm and a water utility.

“The suppliers to the water industry … it’s a chain and you really have to have information about every link in the chain,” Byres said. “Who made the pump controllers that are controlling the water pump in that water treatment plant? Who made some the software components in that? Who made the part? Who installed those pumps and programmed them? All that stuff is part of the chain. The reality is, when you have any large infrastructure there’s going to be dozens, if not hundreds of players, in that chain and any of them could be hacked and that impacts everybody.”

ADolus, which had nine employees in 2020, has since expanded to 21 employees and expects to have 30 people on staff in the new year.

“There are so many unsolved problems to sort our in the supply chain of software,” Byres said. “There’s so many really tough problems and we’re making really good progress, but we’ll need more staff to do that.”

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Tanishq Verma, student at VIU’s information technology and applied sciences program check instructors notes on a white board as during an IT networking lab. VIU’s ITAS program’s new curriculum places more focus on cybersecurity as hackers mount attacks on I.T. systems and create a rise in demand for cybersecurity services. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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