While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down almost every aspect of our society and has grounded to a near-halt many sectors of our economy, cybercriminals remained busier than ever and show no signs of abating.
As Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) noted in their most recent <a href=”https://www.cse-cst.gc.ca/en/accountability/transparency/reports/communications-security-establishment-annual-report-2020-2021″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>annual report</a>: “Cyber threat actors never let a crisis go to waste. They quickly pivoted to using COVID-19 themed phishing lures and fraudulent websites to try to scam Canadians.” Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, the CSE, the national technical authority for cybersecurity in Canada, responded to 2,206 cyber security incident cases — an average of six per day — and took down more than 7,000 fake domains impersonating key federal government websites.
Scammers have been very busy during the pandemic and that’s why <a href=”https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/en/cyber-security-awareness-month” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Cyber Security Awareness Month</a> is more relevant than ever. This month-long campaign held every October is recognized around the world for helping the public learn more about the dangers of cybercrimes and the importance of cybersecurity. This year’s theme is quite aptly called, “Life Happens Online” and emphasizes the importance of protecting our devices, accounts, and connections.
Our office has developed a number of resources to help both organizations and individuals safeguard personal information and protect themselves from becoming victims of cyberattacks. Among them, I recommend reading our fact sheet on <a href=”https://www.ipc.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/fs-tech-protect-against-phishing-e.pdf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”><em>Protecting Yourself Against Phishing</em></a>, and listening to our Info Matters podcast <a href=”https://www.ipc.on.ca/guidance-documents/info-matters-podcast/info-matters-episode-1-dont-get-caught-protect-yourself-against-phishing/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>episode</a> where our own senior technology advisor, Fred Carter, provides easy to understand tips on how to protect yourself online. One of our most popular fact sheets, <a href=”https://www.ipc.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/fs-privacy-work-from-home.pdf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”><em>Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic</em></a>, provides some best practices for organizations to ensure their employees continue to protect privacy and ensure access to information, even when working remotely.
Since joining the IPC, our new Assistant Commissioner of Strategic Priorities and External Relations, <a href=”https://www.ipc.on.ca/about-us/the-commissioner-and-team/assistant-commissioner-strategic-initiatives-external-relations/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Eric Ward</a>, has hit the ground running, meeting virtually with stakeholders, and diving right in to all things IPC. On October 12, he will be appearing at the <a href=”https://events.ismg.io/event/cybersecurity-and-fraud-summit-toronto-2021/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Virtual Cybersecurity & Fraud Summit</a> to discuss current laws and cybersecurity, emerging technologies, and artificial intelligence.
Our best defence against cybercriminals is to be aware of the risks that come with online activities and to think deliberately about what personal information we are sharing, for what purpose, and with whom. This is especially important given how critically dependent we’ve become on the internet for work, school, shopping, and socializing. The recent Facebook outage earlier this week and the havoc it wreaked for billions of users was a stark reminder of this growing dependency, for good or for ill.
I encourage you to visit the <a href=”https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/en/cyber-security-awareness-month” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Cyber Security Awareness Month</a> website and review <a href=”https://www.ipc.on.ca/guidance-documents/?yr=&topic=technology-and-security&type=” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>our IPC resources</a> to learn more about cybercrime and how to defend yourself and your organization.
The founder of Forbes magazine, B.C. Forbes, once quipped, “Acting without thinking is like shooting without aiming.” I believe we can take that bit of wisdom and transpose it to our online lives. So, don’t click without thinking, or chances are, you’ll miss the mark.
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