In light of the escalating ransomware attacks and other cyber threats across the nation, experts are emphasizing the urgency for Canadian businesses and organizations to fortify their cybersecurity measures.

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Recently, alarming statistics emerged when it was revealed that between May and July, the personal information of approximately 1.5 million Albertans was compromised, including the sensitive banking details of nearly 7,300 seniors. This revelation came to light during an announcement by the Alberta Dental Service Corporation on Thursday, shedding light on a significant data breach in the dental sector that has impacted the privacy of a substantial portion of Alberta’s population.

This situation unfolds as Suncor continues its recovery journey following a significant cyber intrusion that took place in late June, resulting in a data breach within Petro-Canada’s points system. (It remains uncertain whether ransomware was involved in this incident.)

Canada's Cybersecurity

Ransomware attacks, a type of cyber threat in which hackers threaten to expose sensitive data or block access to it until a ransom is paid, are becoming increasingly frequent across the country. This insight comes from cybersecurity technology expert Ritesh Kotak.

No industry is immune to the rising tide of ransomware assaults, including healthcare, agriculture, and retail. Kotak characterizes these attacks as having potentially disastrous consequences.

Imagine a scenario where you’re locked out of your data, your computer systems are inaccessible, and there’s uncertainty about the extent of information that might have been compromised and possibly offered for sale on the dark web.

Kotak asserts that with the increasing interconnectivity of various devices today, hackers are finding it easier to breach accounts, and these attacks are growing in complexity.
According to Kotak, organizations entrusted with handling sensitive data, such as medical records, could find themselves targeted more frequently by hackers. This is because these attackers believe that such organizations are more likely to yield to ransom demands to prevent the auctioning of their customers’ personal information.

It’s worth noting that ransomware attacks are often underreported. In a February revelation, the Calgary Police Service disclosed a 41% decrease in reported ransomware incidents from 2021 to 2022.

Nevertheless, John Zabiuk, the director of the cybersecurity program at NAIT, suggests that these numbers may not provide the complete picture.

“They just keep getting worse. They are not sluggish at all. They are developing in sophistication, making it harder to detect them and becoming smarter. I wouldn’t say there has been a decline.”

Canada's Cybersecurity

What Businesses and Affected Individuals Can Do

Kotak highlights a significant issue in cybersecurity – many businesses adopt a reactive rather than proactive approach.

To ensure ongoing security against cyber threats, Kotak suggests that businesses should take proactive measures. This includes hiring cybersecurity experts and conducting regular third-party audits of their systems.

“In the long run, it will protect the data, it will give your customers confidence that the correct precautions are in place, and if you are to be the victim of a breach, at least you have these policies in place,” says the author.

Kotak also recommends conducting cyber exercises, akin to fire drills, as a way to prepare employees for potential cybersecurity incidents.

Meanwhile, back at NAIT, Zabiuk emphasizes that although security solutions may come with a hefty price tag, the potential cost of cyberattacks and damage to a company’s reputation could be far more significant.

“Will you continue to get contacts? Will consumers view your company and conclude that they cannot trust you? Those are significant issues that cannot be solved as simply with money,” he said.

However, Zabiuk underscores that humans consistently represent the weakest link in any ransomware attack. Therefore, it’s crucial for organizations to educate their employees about phishing scams and enhance their awareness.

He advises that individuals whose information may have been compromised should remain vigilant. For those whose bank information was potentially exposed, Zabiuk recommends taking immediate steps, such as changing passwords, cancelling credit cards, and closely monitoring their bank accounts for an extended period.

Zabiuk says there are also software services that scan the dark web and notify people if their information has been found.


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