This month is Cyber Awareness Month, reminding us to brush up on our cyber security knowledge and learn how we protect ourselves from threats online. While many Canadians may think they’re knowledgeable about cyber security, a recent survey shows most fall short when put to the test.
This past August, RBC and Ipsos teamed up and surveyed about 2,000 Canadians on cyber security, the financial industry, and how they protect themselves online. Over 75 per cent said they’re either very or somewhat knowledgeable about cyber security, but when given six cyber threat terms to define, only two out of the six terms were correctly identified by the majority of Canadians. About two-thirds correctly defined malicious software, but only 32 per cent of Canadians were able to define pharming, which is a cyber attack aimed to redirect people to a fake, dangerous website. Other terms included:
Also known as malware. This can be any type of software that steals or deletes documents or protected data. It can also add software to your computer without your consent. Malware can come in the form of worms, viruses, trojans, spyware, adware or rootkits.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks you from accessing your computer and threatens to publish your information unless you pay a ransom.
Vishing is when scammers call you or leave a voice mail, claiming to be from legitimate companies and coercing you to reveal your personal information, such as your banking and credit card information. Phishing, on the other hand, is a similar practice done over email.
Millennials more confident online; more likely to take risks
Millennials claimed to be the most knowledgeable about cyber security (84 per cent), but only performed minimally better on the definitions test in comparison to other demographics. They were also less likely to safeguard against many security risks, including protecting their name and email address. On top of that, they’re also more likely to engage in risky behaviours while connected to public Wi-Fi, such as online banking.
The digital age has also shifted people’s overall view on crime. Canadians are now less concerned about traditional illegal activities, such as home invasions or car theft, in comparison to cyber crimes. Instead:
- 61 per cent are worried about being infected by a virus or malware.
- 50 per cent are worried about identity theft.
- 41 per cent are worried about falling victim to an online crime.
Out of all the generations, millennials are also the most confident that they’ll know what to do if they fall victim to a cyber crime or fraud, in comparison to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
How to keep yourself safe online
If you are feeling unsafe on the internet, the Government of Canada and your bank (including RBC) have a number of tips to help you keep safe:
- Create strong passwords that include symbols and numbers.
- Keep your online banking information secure.
- Steer clear of public Wi-Fi, where people could access your information. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using public Wi-Fi and don’t access your personal information on these networks.
- Be careful when shopping online. Ensure the website is secure by looking for “https” address at the front of the site address.
- Refrain from sending personal information over email and be wary of opening emails from unknown senders. Also look out for spelling and format errors in the content of the email. Scammers may try to fool you into thinking they are trustworthy by making slight changes you may overlook (i.e. email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are still unsure, contact the company directly by phone.
- Don’t share too much personal information on social media, including your address and date of birth. These can be used to access your personal information, and doing so puts you at risk for identity theft.
- Report a suspected cyber crime immediately. Your bank may have a toll-free number for you to contact, but you should also contact your local law enforcement or the RCMP.
Following safe online practices and educating yourself on the different methods of cyber crime can help protect you from these potential dangers. For more information, check out The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.