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Get wise to online threats

|Feb 18|magazine10 min read

While using the Internet enables Canadian businesses to perform a lot of tasks more efficiently and effectively, it also exposes them to the risk of cyber-attacks.

Cyber-attacks can hurt businesses in many ways, including business interruption, lower productivity, data loss, equipment damage, decrease in revenue and loss of customer loyalty and business reputation.

As such, it is essential for Canadian companies to take effective measures to protect themselves against cyber-attacks.

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Cyber attacks on Canadian companies

According to a report released by Symantec, Canada is the second most preferred target for cyber criminals, after the United States.

In a survey conducted by the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance, 69 percent of Canadian companies said that they have experienced malware attack, computer virus attack, phishing, social engineering or other form of cyber-attack. About one out of four of those who participated in the survey said that cyber-attacks had a significant impact on their businesses in terms of financial and reputational loss.

In September, 2012, Telvent Canada, a company that develops remote administration and monitoring solutions for the energy sector, found that its internal firewall and security systems were breached. The attack affected some client files, but the company took prompt measures to contain it.

Earlier this year, telecommunications company Bell Canada announced that the confidential account information of more than 22,000 of its customers were compromised as a result of a cyber-attack on a third-party supplier.

Cyber criminals do not only target large multinational corporations in Canada. Several law firms on Toronto's Bay Street experienced sophisticated malware attacks that resulted in the loss of important data.

How can Canadian businesses improve their security systems?

Here is a list of things that Canadian companies can do to defend against cyber threats.

  • Use a security assessment or penetration test tool, such as BackBox, Nessus or Core Impact, to identify security vulnerabilities and make the appropriate improvements to your cyber security systems.
  • Businesses with mobile workforces should implement a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is known to be effective in lowering the risk of cyber-attacks, because it can reduce or eliminate the need to use Wi-Fi in public places.
  • Install a good intrusion detection system and make sure that you or your employees are able to understand the activities it records and the reports it generates.
  • Use data encryption to prevent unauthorized people from understanding your company data and reduce the risk of data theft and leakage.
  • While simple passwords are easy to remember, they can make your company more susceptible to cyber threats. It is important that you create strong and lengthy passwords that are very hard to guess.
  • Locking down your network ports when they are not in use can help prevent cyber criminals from accessing your network. This can be done with the use of auto shut-off switches.

As cyber criminals continue to develop more sophisticated ways to penetrate security systems, Canadian businesses have to upgrade their network security regularly to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of cyber-attacks.

 

About the author

John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from social media marketing to Cloud computing.