In November, Agoria, the Belgian federation for the technology industry, launched the first socio-economic study on the cybersecurity sector in Belgium in the presence of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Minister of Defense Ludivine Dedonder.
The main conclusions of this study are that the cybersecurity sector urgently needs extra workers, and that SMEs are not sufficiently aware of the potential danger.
This research is supported by Cyber Made in Belgium (CMiB). “This first socio-economic study provides a clear insight into where the cybersecurity sector in Belgium stands and where we need to make efforts,” says Filip Verstockt, General Manager of Orange Cyberdefense Belgium. As co-founder and chairman of CMiB, Verstockt is one of the driving forces behind the study.
The report shows that few technicians are as invisible and as crucial as the cybersecurity specialists who protect Belgian citizens, companies, and governments. They are working in an industry that is growing yearly - but potentially not fast enough to avert the rising threat.
42 percent of SMEs suffered a cyber-attack last year; in 38 percent of the cases, the company was temporarily shut down.
In 2021, no fewer than 37,982 incidents were reported in Belgium.
In Belgium, 441 companies are active in cybersecurity, representing sales of 1.58 billion euros. There are currently 1,205 unfilled vacancies.
In Belgium, 441 companies are active in cybersecurity, representing a total of 1.58 billion euros. The most popular customers are telecom and IT (21%), financial services (20%), and government (19%). These are sectors where the chance of a hack is high, although, of course, no one is really safe from online criminals. For example, Agoria reports that no fewer than 37,982 incidents were reported in 2021, accounting for 100 attacks per day. It is an increase of 37 percent compared to 2019.
The offender profiles are very diverse. It ranges from people who want to steal money or data to organizations that want to weigh in on the public debate. Only 30 percent of criminals are effectively prosecuted; the rest escape. Another hallucinatory figure: 42 percent of SMEs suffered a cyber-attack last year, and in 38 percent of the cases, the company was temporarily shut down. Despite this threat, half of the Belgian companies do not have a well-thought-out cybersecurity strategy.
We must see cybersecurity as a business opportunity, both as a sector and for every company in Belgium.”
- Filip Verstockt, General Manager of Orange Cyberdefense Belgium
There is, therefore, a great need for people with expertise, but there are not enough of them. A total of 6,450 full-time profiles are working in cybersecurity in Belgium, but at the same time, there are 1,205 vacancies. Agoria therefore sounds the alarm. At 16 percent, the vacancy rate - the number of vacancies in relation to the total number of jobs in the sector - is considerably higher than in the IT sector (9.1%) or the broad Belgian labor market (5%). The sector is still small, especially in Wallonia. 4,210 people work in cybersecurity in Flanders and just 455 in Wallonia. In Brussels, 1,720 people work in the sector.
The demand for extra workers goes beyond just the cybersecurity sector itself. Other companies are also looking for expertise to secure themselves digitally. In total, there are more than 1,500 unfilled vacancies. The experts at Agoria argue for more money for relevant training.
The report also contains recommendations. For example, the aim is to make policy less fragmented and focus on awareness. SMEs, in particular, do not seem to realize how serious the threat is, say the Agoria experts in the report: 'Board members and managers rarely realize that an investment in cybersecurity is an investment in business security, integrity and consumer confidence - and a crucial protection against potential disastrous burglaries.'
Filip Verstockt: “I am convinced that, thanks to our location and knowledge centers, Belgium has all the assets to be the European frontrunner in the field of cybersecurity, but only if we accelerate the development of talent and strengthen our competitiveness. We must see cybersecurity as a business opportunity, both as a sector and for every company in Belgium. By showing your customers that you work on cybersecurity, you position yourself as a reliable partner who can guarantee continuity.”
Orange Cyberdefense is the Orange Group entity dedicated to cybersecurity. It has 8,500 customers worldwide. As Europe's leading cybersecurity service provider, we strive to protect freedom and build a safer digital society. Our services capabilities draw their strength from research and intelligence, which allows us to offer our clients unparalleled knowledge of current and emerging threats. With 25 years of experience in the field of information security, 2,700 researchers and analysts, 17 SOCs and 13 CyberSOCs spread around the world, we know how to address the global and local issues of our customers. We protect them across the entire threat lifecycle in more than 160 countries.