Canadian Manufacturing

Canadians may overestimate their ability to spot phishing scams

Mixed news when it comes to some Canadians' understanding of effective cyber hygiene

November 24, 2020  by CM Staff

PHOTO: Digital transformation/Dominic Smith via Flickr

Despite a growing understanding that cyber security is essential in a digital era, some Canadians still need help in getting the message that simple steps can make a big difference in protecting personal information from cyber criminals.

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) partnered with Optimity during Cyber Security Awareness Month in October to conduct a series of online quizzes on cyber hygiene. The survey of more than 7,800 Canadians across five demographic groups sought to better understand their knowledge of preventative cyber measures.

Email phishing scams continue to be the most common form of attack in the cyber threat landscape. Digital fraudsters show no signs of slowing down their phishing activity in 2020 as cyber attacks proliferate amid the widespread shift to work-from-home, and as Canadians spend more time and money online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians have lost more than $40 million to online scams in 2020 and phishing continues to be used in the majority of cases.

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“Banks go to great lengths to keep Canadians’ money safe and protect their personal and financial information, but the realities of a connected world mean that cyber threats are not limited to our systems and technology,” says Neil Parmenter, President and CEO of the CBA. “In the digital era, security is a shared responsibility and Canadians have a role to play. To that end, the banking sector is committed to promoting cyber security best practices to help customers better protect themselves and their devices against a rising tide of digital fraud.”

Despite a growing recognition of the importance of unique passwords, a large number (63%) of respondents could not identify all examples of weak passwords, suggesting a need to learn more about what constitutes a strong password. Another vulnerability is effective password management – more than 80% of users are unable to remember each password, saying this is the biggest barrier to maintaining unique passwords.

Choosing a unique password for sensitive online accounts, such as email and financial accounts, is crucial because a security breach at one site means your password could be handed to criminals who may try to use it at other sites.

With the increasing popularity of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) – including televisions, gaming systems, smart thermostats, smart watches, and more – a greater number of Canadians are becoming more attuned to the basic cyber defence practices needed to protect their privacy and security.

  • 83% of respondents say they have four to seven internet-connected devices in their home, and 40% said they have eight or more;
  • 84% of Optimity users say they regularly check for security software updates to their connected devices (42% say “weekly” and 42% say “monthly”); and
  • 90% of users agree that having a strong, unique password for their WiFi connection is important, and that they should keep track of which IoT devices are connected to WiFi.
  • While these are encouraging results as IoT adoption grows, better knowledge of which every-day objects might be connected to the internet is necessary to improve IoT security. For example, more than 55 per cent of survey respondents did not know that lights could be connected devices.