Location, location, location.

If homeowners and businesses were to take a cue from the Norton Top 10 Riskiest Online Canadian Cities Report, Burlington might well be ghost town in a couple of months.

The report, the first of its kind by the security software company, names the South Ontario municipality as the overall Canadian champion of its spam and online fraud hot bed award. The city was followed closely by Port Coquitlam and the Township of Langley, both in British Columbia. (Toronto, don’t feel so bad you also made it – to eight place right next to Markham.)

So what are businesses to do if they’re on Norton’s risky city lists? Cut the Internet connection? Close the online shop? Move to a new location?

Unlike street crime, cyber crime however, appears to be an indicator of prosperity, widespread on line connectivity and even local government involvement projects such as free public WiFi access.

Far from being the stereotypical crime-ridden urban area strewn with crack joints and daily drive-by shootouts, Burlington is an upwardly mobile community which was even voted by Money Sense Magazine as the 4th best place to live in Canada.

While Toronto charges mostly for WiFi access, this small city by the Lake has 18 facilities offering online service for free. “Any individual or business person can go to public offices, city recreation centres, pools libraries and even the waterfront to surf the Internet at no charge,” Mayor Cam Jackson says proudly.

The city’s current distinction should not discourage businesses and would-be homeowners from shunning Burlington and similar cities either. The factors which Norton named as drivers for online fraud (high Internet access availability, high technology per capita expenditure, prevalent online activity) also happen to be widely accepted drivers of urban development.

These and other factors such as improved government, education and private sector collaboration in IT training, development and employment and free broadband were vital in resurrecting municipalities like Moncton and Frederickton.

Online security due diligence should be the business of the day for companies operating in any location. As security experts have repeatedly said over the years – employ a layered security approach that protects your servers, networks, stored data and transmitted and most importantly customers.

For individual user, it’s mostly a combination of keeping your software regularly patched, installing anti-spam and malware tools and common sense such as staying away from questionable Website and refraining from opening suspicious e-mail and attachments.

I don’t think cyber criminals are targeting these risky cities specifically. The Internet makes sure that spam, botnets, malware, online fraud and other seedy online activities travel the world unrestricted (even in China). If you open that spam e-mail you get stung no matter where you are.

The thing to remember is that wherever your level of tech proficiency might be, it pays to always keep your guard up whether you’re living — in Burlington, Ontario or Longueuil, Quebec.

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