Canada, Our True North Strong and… really not great about cyber security

Dear Grandma,

There’s something that’s always bugged me about polls and surveys. Especially polls about the Internet and security. Every time there is one, Canada’s data is always lumped in with North America. The people running those surveys seemed to assume that Canada was an extension of the US, so the people and companies in Canada would have all the same issues and concerns as the people in the US. As any Canadian would say, what a load of hockey pucks!

So, I’m happy to tell you that an organization called the CIRA has been running surveys and gathering information about Canadian attitudes and use of the Internet since 2012 in what they called Canada’s Internet Factbook. In 2014 that Factbook started to include information about my favorite topic – cyber security. They’ve even had separate surveys of people responsible for IT and security in small to medium businesses (less than 500 people) in a report called the Canadian Cybersecurity Survey. That one is pretty important because roughly half of all Canadian workers are in such businesses. Even banks are researching this – they know that what affects Canadians affects their clients and the banks themselves. The Royal Bank Canada (RBC) surveyed Canadian understanding of cyber risks in the financial industry just this past October. These surveys looked at what Canadians know and do about cyber security.

Overall these surveys found that these small to medium-sized businesses are pretty good at protecting themselves against attacks from the Internet. That’s good news – you and the whole family use such services every day. The bad news is that individual Canadians, even some of those responsible for IT and computer security (or cyber security), are not great at protecting themselves and their personal devices online.

This is a pretty serious problem. That’s why I’m glad somebody is going out there and getting real information about this from other Canadians.

Here’s what all these surveys found.

The good…

  • Canadians generally think that they are aware of the risks they face online – about 77% of them.
  • 77% of Canadians are also worried about malware – that’s good! Concern is the first step towards action.
  • 60% of Canadians know about the biggest attacks against companies and organizations in the news (like Marriot, Equifax, and Yahoo).

The bad…

  • Despite what they believe, Canadians, even more technical ones, are not investing enough in security for their personal computers and mobile devices at home.
  • Only 16% of Canadians could identify common cyber security terms correctly (I’ve included a cheat sheet of terms for you below).
  • Millennials (born 1981-1996) generally had better knowledge of cyber threats than other age groups but were the least concerned about safeguarding their personal information.
  • 60% of millennials were also more concerned about cyber crime than traditional forms of crime (burglary, car theft, etc.) but were more likely than any other age groups to not know what to do if victimized by cyber crime (50%).

The ugly…

  • Of the technical people surveyed who work in small to medium sized businesses, 78% of them were confident that they were ready to protect themselves against cyber-attacks from the Internet but almost 40% of them didn’t have even basic anti-malware installed at work
  • More than 30% of those technical people surveyed do not pay for any kind of protection for their personal computers and mobile devices at home!

Now, what you can do to protect yourself

Here is what you need to do in 6 short easy steps, in order of priority:

  1. Install antivirus (now often called anti-malware) software on your home computer.
  2. Use a strong password for everything – passwords don’t need to be complicated, just long.
  3. If your phone, tablet or computer come with Fingerprint ID features – use them.
  4. Install a Password Keeper on your phone and use it to keep all your password safe.
  5. Don’t ever use your banking password for anything else.
  6. Never, and I mean never, give your password to anyone – no matter how nice they seem.

That’s it for now. I think I’ll have some more tips for you next time. I just want to make sure you’ve got some good cyber knowledge in your life before we go onto the weirder things I can tell you about 😊

So… any questions?  Are these tips enough to get you started and confident that you’re protecting yourself?  Have you heard of other simple things anyone (not just Canadians) can do for their personal security and privacy on the Internet and at home?

Good night grandma!


Cool Grandma Tips

Learn these, and you’ll be the coolest grandma in town:

  • Malware – a malicious program that gets onto your computer and tries to do bad things like steal your files or attack other computers
  • Virus – the original name for malware, but now it just covers one type of malware
  • Antivirus or Anti malware – a program that runs on your computer or mobile device and tries to recognize malware, stop it, and delete it.
  • IT – Information Technology – the wild and wonderful world of programs, computers and the networks that join them together.
  • Cyber Security – anything to do with the protection of people and computers against bad guys and malware. This is the job that your beloved son works in.

More Cool Grandma Tips 

  • Install antivirus (now often called anti-malware) software on your home computer (better yet, get one of your sons or grandchildren to do it).
    • Doesn’t matter if you have a Windows PC or an Apple MAC, they need protection.
    • Make sure it stays up-to-date by buying an annual subscription
  • Use a strong password for everything – they don’t need to be complicated, just long.
    • Complicated passwords like “0bZ529qw)” are old fashioned and no longer safe
    • A long password like “The flowers in my garden are beautiful!” is easy to remember and much harder for bad guys to break than the complicated one (but don’t use these examples of course. Make up one of your own!).
  • If your phone, tablet or computer come with Fingerprint ID features – use them.
  • Install a Password Keeper on your phone and use it to keep all your password safe.
  • Don’t ever use your banking password for anything else
  • Never, and I mean NEVER, give your password to anyone – no matter how nice they seem, or if they are just checking your password to make sure it strong
  • Just say this out loud to yourself if anyone ever asks for your password
    • “a stranger is asking me to give them my password”. When you hear it out loud, you will realize how bad that sounds. Just say “no thank you” and hang up or walk away.

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