DUNCAN, B.C. – With many Canadians spending more time online due to social distancing measures of the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercrime is on the rise in Canada. Even before the pandemic, Canadians lost over $43 million in 2019 to cyber criminals which is why experts are using Cyber Security Awareness Month as a platform to share advice to help with cybercrime prevention.
“Just like we’re being proactive in our approach to dealing with COVID-19, we need to take the same approach to our cybersecurity,” shares Ryan Smith, Manager of Cybersecurity at Island Savings, a division of First West Credit Union. “We’re strongly encouraging members to take every precaution and understand why they should take simple steps like using two-factor authentication, mobile alerts, and creating complex passwords for banking.”
Two-factor authentication is a process in which a secondary code (sent via text or email) is required in addition to your online banking password to log into your account. Mobile alerts are a feature that notifies you— via your mobile device— when there is a change made to your online banking account such as a new bill payee being added.
“Fraudsters typically target individuals who are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and the pandemic has highlighted that,” says Smith. “We’re seeing a significant numbers of fake websites tricking people into providing personal information relating to pandemic support such as Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).”
Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS) is aware of over a thousand malicious imitations of Government of Canada (GC) websites using COVID-19-themed lures and provided information to initiate their takedown.
“Another trend we’re seeing in the banking world is cybercriminals buying ads on search engines like Google or Bing directing people to fake sites instead of their financial institution’s actual website,” says Smith. “When members enter their login information on the fake site, the criminals capture it and use it to steal funds from the members’ accounts.”
“This isn’t about scaring people— this is about educating the public and providing simple and effective tactics they can implement to protect themselves and ultimately their financial well-being,” says Smith.
Smith and his team—who work primarily out of the Cowichan Valley and South Island—are on the cutting edge of cybercrime research for financial institutions in Canada and do so with the help of a number of partners, including Microsoft and Victoria-based, Hyas Infosec, who provides the software needed to gather more-robust intel on cybercriminals.