Calgary named Canada’s “safest cyber city”

Calgary, AB is “Canada’s safest cyber city”, according to security software vendor Symantec (Canada) Corp.

When it comes to maintaining safety on their home PCs, Calgarians fare better than the rest, reveals a Symantec sponsored survey, the results of which were announced today.

The survey was conducted by Harris/Decima, an Ottawa-based market research firm.

It investigated security awareness and practices among residents of seven major cities across Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.

The survey’s goal was to provide “insight into Canadians’ overall knowledge of Internet security threats, and their attitudes toward security software,” Symantec Canada said in a statement.

Totally 2,536 respondents – 18 years and older – were polled between Sept. 24 and Oct.3.

Interestingly, on the issue of the “concern about security”, Toronto scored higher (94 per cent) than Calgary (91 per cent).  

However, when it came to having the latest security software installed on computers, Calgary fared best, with 90 per cent of the respondents there saying their software was “up to date.”

Symantec plans to present Calgary’s mayor with an award acknowledging the city’s designation as “Canada’s safest cyber city.”

Security consciousness appears to be as high in Toronto as it is in Calgary.

Apart from having the most concern about home PC safety, 63 per cent of Toronto respondents (a tie with Calgary) said they are likely to purchase the latest version of security software at least once a year.

Only 54 per cent of Montréalers have the same plans.

Another interesting finding has to do with the respondents’ awareness of the various categories of security threats.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed had either themselves fallen victim to online fraud/ID theft, or knew someone who had.

Security consciousness

Of five online threats – phishing, spam, Trojans, worms and botnets – botnets are the least known, with only 24 per cent respondents having heard of them.

By contrast nearly everyone (99 per cent) was aware of spam. And the vast majority recognized worms (94 per cent), Trojans (86 per cent) and phishing (78 per cent) as security threats.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of respondents hadn’t even heard of botnets isn’t something to be unduly concerned about, says one Canadian security expert.

That’s because the same measures companies and consumers use to counter Trojans, worms, viruses and spyware minimize, the chances of their PCs becoming part of a botnet, said David Senf, director of Canadian security and software research at analyst firm  IDC Canada in Toronto.

“It isn’t critical that they understand the underlying technology behind a [botnet], though it would be great if they did.”   

The analyst said while security awareness and education are vital they should cover many different things.

For instance, he said, a business needs to be aware of its assets and their value.

“Based on that the firm also needs to understand its vulnerabilities, how those could compromise its assets, and, ultimately, the types of countermeasures it needs to put in place to protect against those threats.”

Finally, he said, companies need to figure out what priorities they should assign to each of those countermeasures.

“This is a long way of saying security risk management.”

Senf rued that comprehensive security awareness is lacking among many Canadian firms.   

“We do see penetration of anti-spam, anti-virus, and anti-spyware in Canada – and we’re still forecasting strong growth in those markets. That’s a good thing.”

But there’s “under penetration” of tools and strategies to deal with internal threats, the IDC Canada analyst said.

“Firms need to be watching and dealing with these internal threats as well – whether it’s data loss from a USB key or a laptop being misplaced, or an ex-employee gaining unauthorized access to systems and data.”   

Gender bender

The survey results also uncovered differences in security awareness and behaviours – based on factors such as age and gender.

For instance, fewer younger city folk (those between 18 and 34 years) had updated security software on their home PC than older residents (50+ years) – 78 percent vs. 92 per cent.

Toronto was the exception.

In Toronto residents between 35 and 49 indicated greater concern about software updates than those 50 and over.

And while the study didn’t indicate that one of the sexes was more prone to security attacks than the other, gender was a factor when it came to security awareness levels and behaviours.

For instance, one finding was more Canadian women than men are unlikely to have up-to-date security software on their home PC.  But again Toronto was the exception with more women than men having updated software (89 vs. 85 per cent).

On the awareness front too there are gender differences. More women than men are unsure whether they have been a victim of online threats (25 vs. 20 per cent.)

“When it comes to having up-to-date security software, Montreal men are more diligent than their female counterparts (91 per cent vs. 81 per cent),” the survey revealed.

West vs. West

While Calgary received a billing as the safest cyber city in Canada, Vancouver had the highest number of respondents – 32 per cent – that had fallen victim to online fraud and ID theft.

“Interestingly, the city also has the least number of residents who have up-to-date security software,” a Symantec statement said.

The security products vendor says it plans to implement a “targeted awareness campaign” in Vancouver in early 2008 to ensure Vancouverites are better protected.

A Symantec executive said the survey results are encouraging on the whole.

“It’s great news that the vast number of those surveyed are concerned about online threats and are taking necessary precautions,” said Lynn Hargrove, director, consumer solutions, Symantec (Canada) Corp.

But she said as the Internet threat landscape continues to grow in scale and sophistication, it’s vital that consumers are diligent and properly secure their PCs.

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