As it becomes a growing threat, individuals, companies, and cities have been targets of cybercrime. BetaKit reports to a generally tech-savvy audience, but even the most-tech savvy individuals are not safe as hackers get ever more resourceful and clever.
No matter who you are, you can become a statistic.
Thankfully, there are simple steps Canadians of all levels of technical literacy can take to keep themselves safer.
In a BetaKit Live, Leigh Tynan, the Director of TELUS Online Security; Jeff Bonvie from the RCMP’s Cybercrime Coordination Centre; and Matthew Moniz, entrepreneur and Content Creator of Moniz Media, shared their insights on the current state of cybercrime and the secret to staying safer online.
No one is fully safe
Moniz said there are usually three types of groups when it comes to cyber security awareness: the first is a “normal” individual who uses tech because they need it—they’re familiar with the tech they use (possibly for work) but aren’t really tech-savvy. The second is the tech-savvy enthusiast—people like Moniz himself and his audience—who love tech, know tech, and want to stay on the cutting edge. Then there’s the older generation who didn’t grow up with tech and might use it minimally.
Within these three groups, it’s easy to visualize cybercriminals targeting the elderly or people who don’t use technology as much. And studies show they are often victims of cybercrime. But the tech enthusiasts among us can’t get smug either—simply knowing more about tech is not a guarantee of security. For example, 42 percent of all Canadians have experienced a least one type of cybersecurity incident since the pandemic began. Further, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) have been targeted by fraudsters, according to research conducted by CPA Canada.
“The person who’s hacking you doesn’t care what background you’re coming from,” said Bonvie. “If they see a way in, they’re going to take it.”
No matter who you are, you can become a statistic, something Tynan said is simply a reality of our connected world.
“It would be naive to say ‘it could never happen to me’ because you need to realize that every single business, every single app, every single organization that you’ve ever interacted with and have a login and a password with, that’s a vulnerability,” said Tynan.
Cybersecurity is like autumn: you need layers
The unfortunate reality is no one can be 100 percent safe—that’s just not possible in today’s digital world. Instead, your goal should be to become a less attractive target to potential criminals, which is achieved through creating multiple layers of security and fail-safes so hackers can’t get in (or can’t take much if they do).
Bonvie recommended people first think about the information they put online. He said in phishing or email scams, scammers will use personal information they find on your public profiles to make their outreach seem more realistic.
“A tech-savvy user and a regular user alike needs to be very conscious about what they put out there publicly and what they share, because that information is often used to create those well-crafted messages that get past the really well-informed, tech-savvy user,” said Bonvie. “So not just the technical solutions, but also the behaviours that go along with using those solutions.”
Tynan added that self-education is critical. In particular, staying up to date on cyber attacks and what they might look like (here’s the list of known scams by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre). Further, she advocated for proactivity when it comes to cybersecurity: making sure all devices are up to date (new software versions often close identified security vulnerabilities), conducting dark web scans to see if your data has been compromised, and turning off auto-join features for public or unsecured Wi-Fi.
Tynan also advocated for embracing suspicion online. For example, if you get an email coupon from a store you weren’t expecting, check the store’s website or call them to verify rather than simply clicking the link.
“Bottom line, it’s about layers,” Tynan said. “You need to have multiple things that you’re doing because one thing isn’t good enough.”
What do to if you’re hacked
All the security in the world cannot keep you fully safe online—at some point, you will be the victim of an attack. The panel advocated for three steps if you’ve been a victim: minimize the potential damage, report it, and talk about it.
When an attack happens, you need to think about the possible damage. For example, Bonvie noted that if a scam is financially-focused or a password is stolen that accesses your online banking, secure your accounts and engage with your bank right away.
Once you’ve done your best to mitigate damage, such as securing accounts and changing passwords, here’s what you need to do:
Report the crime to local law enforcement: Bonvie said to use the non-emergency line, which you can get by googling “Non-emergency police number [your city or province].”
Report the crime to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC): either online or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.
File additional reports: with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS) and the RCMP’s National Cybercrime Coordination Centre.
Contact the CRTC: If the attack was email-based, report it to the CRTC.
“It’s important to have those criminal complaints so that we know where to invest the time and resources,” Bonvie said. “If law enforcement isn’t aware that a criminal activity is going on, then it’s hard for us to dedicate the time and energy to look at it.”
After reporting the attack, regardless of the outcome, the panel agreed it’s critical to talk about what happened. Oftentimes, people feel like they are failures or did something wrong if they are victimized. But both Tynan and Bonvie were clear: the more people are willing to talk about it, the more they can get help for themselves and help others avoid the same scam.
“It’s important to talk about it because one of the best ways for Canadians to learn about these things and how to protect themselves is through the experiences of others who have a voice, who’ve been through it and talk about it,” said Bonvie.
Learn more on how to keep yourself safe with TELUS Online Security.