Working from home could increase risk of cybersecurity threats

Attacks by cybercriminals have increased during the pandemic as they have targeted pipelines, hospitals, colleges and even subway systems.

Now Canada’s Chamber of Commerce says more needs to be done to make sure Canadian businesses and citizens are ready to thwart cyberattacks.

“A cyberattack can happen to anyone at anytime,” said Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, Senior Director, Digital Economy, Technology & Innovation Policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber conducted a survey on cybersecurity and found that 65 per cent of Canadians are worried about falling victim to an attack and 80 per cent of Canadian CEOs are concerned that cybersecurity is a threat to growth.

A new initiative by the Chamber, dubbed “Cyber. Right. Now.” brings together 28 tech companies, including Blackberry, Microsoft and Cisco to try and push the issue higher up on the national agenda. 

“The Chamber has been seizing the momentum and this has been an important issue for a long time, so let’s bring it under one umbrella and at the same time show we can be a global leader,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

The survey found there had been a 6.6 per cent increase in cybersecurity incidents in 2020 compared to 2019 and one in four organizations reported that adopting technologies was “somewhat” or “extremely” challenging.

“There are three key areas Canada must improve upon,” said Bahr-Gedalia “First, investment in innovation; second, workforce and talent pipeline expansion and diversification; and third, Canada’s global competitiveness.”

The push for more attention for cybersecurity awareness comes at a time when cyber criminals in the U.S. hacked the Colonial Pipeline leading to gasoline shortages, JBS, one of the world’s largest meat suppliers, and even the New York subway system.

In Canada there have been hacks over the past few years including one of the worst data breaches in 2019, the theft of 15 million personal files from Lifelabs which paid a ransom to hackers. Desjardins Financial services in 2020 also had to pay criminals following a hack.

The cities of Ottawa, Burlington and Saskatoon have also been victims of cyber crime.

Often, cyber attacks happen with just an email, an attachment or a link that has a virus attached to it. Employees working from home also have to be vigilant to make sure they don’t allow a hacker into their computer or their company’s system.

“The minute we hit the keyboard this is when the risks start so we need to be educated on an ongoing basis,” said Bahr-Gedalia. “Something as simple as when it comes to passwords, or links or when you’re looking an URL, is it really the one you want before clicking on it?”

Employees are advised to slow down and always practice good cyber hygiene, because even with the best security software, it is often human error that allows hackers in.

Cyber crime also costs everyone money as businesses may have to pay out millions of dollars to get information back and consumers may have to pay higher prices for goods and services caused by hacks. 

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