Canadians receive high marks on cybersecurity IQ

Canadians are actually wiser than most of their foreign counterparts when it comes to cybersecurity, new research suggests.

We have a higher cybersecurity IQ score, so tospeak, than the globalaverage when it comes to grasping the risks of cybercrime andhow to protect ourselves from it, according to the Norton 2012Cybercrime Report from Symantec. Only 21 per cent of the 500 Canadianssurveyed “don’t understand the risk of cybercrime or how to protectthemselves online,” the study said. That’s lower than the globalaverage of 28 per cent.

Canadians also fare better in spotting malware and other types ofcybercrime. Although 49 per cent of global respondents “agree thatunless their computer crashes or goes slow (sic), it’s hard to know ifthey’ve been a victim of cybercrime,” only 42 per cent of Canadiansdownplayed the risk in the same way. And just 34 per cent of Canadians“do not know that malware can operate behind the scenes in a discreetfashion” compared to 40 per cent in the rest of the world.

Cybercriminals have turned theirattention toward mobile and social networks, a Norton study shows. (Photo: Shutterstock)

As for why Canadians seem wiser about cybercrime and how to prevent it,one Norton official really isn’t sure why.

“It would be difficult for me to suggest why. It’s not that far offtrend. It’s slightly lower,” said Marian Merritt, Norton’s LosAngeles-based Internet Safety Advocate.

Besides showing a potential Canadian superiority in cybersecurity, thereport also highlights the shift in online criminal activity to newermobile and social networks. The incidence of mobile vulnerabilities in2011 doubled from 2010. And 40 per cent of all social network usersglobally said they have fallen victim to cybercriminals while usingsocial media.

“There’s a trend away from traditional desktop cybercrime” towardscrime targeting mobile devices and social media use, Merritt said.

The increase in threats targeting mobile devices also shows up in thelatest Second Quarter Threats Report released Tuesday by McAfee.

“After the mobile malware explosion in Q1 2012, Android malware showsno signs of slowing down,” the McAfee report states. “Virtually all newmobile malware detected in Q2 2012 was directed at the Android platformand was comprised of SMS-sending malware, mobile botnets, spyware anddestructive Trojans.”

The McAfee study also warns of an uptick in the use of Twitter to distribute mobile botnets: “The attacker can tweet commands with relative anonymity and all infected devices will follow them.”

Although cybercriminals are targeting mobile and social networks moreoften, consumers don’t seem to realize it or adequately respond to it.Even though one fifth of global respondents in the Norton study havealready been a victim of cybercrime on social networks, less than halfof all respondents – 44 per cent – use a security tool to protect themwhile on social media sites.

“Consumers just aren’t aware that cybercrime is moving (to socialnetworks),” Merritt said. “Cybercrime of this changing nature isn’t asreadily recognized as someone knocking you down in the street andtaking your purse…(People) just don’t view it the same way they view areadily visible form of crime.”

With the bring your own device (BYOD) trend seeing more people usingthe same mobile device for personal and work purposes,  willall of this risky behavior on mobile devices and social media sitesramp up the incidence of cybercrime in both consumer and enterprisenetworks? Not necessarily, Merritt said – as long as enterprise ITmanagers remain vigilant.

“The nature of the BYOD trend brings these newsecurity issues in tothe workplace. But on the enterprise side, IT managers are stepping upto the plate recognizing (the new risks) with the mobile workplace,”Merritt said.

That means most businesses are putting new IT security policies intoplace specifically aimed at protecting their networks from BYODintruders. Some of those policies include employers setting up securedaccess to business networks among all employees regardless of theirdevice, or “maybe specifying devices, maybe specifying operatingsystems” which staff must use at all times in order to access thosenetworks, Merritt said.

Overall, the Norton report estimates the global cost of cybercrime in2011 at $110 billion or $197 per person. In Canada the total cost ofcybercrime was $1.4 billion or $169 per person. Just over 13,000 peoplewere surveyed from 24 countries including Canada, the U.S., China,Brazil and Russia.

Christine WongChristineWong is a Staff Writer at and CDN. E-mail her at,connect on Google+,follow her on Twitter,and join in the conversation on the IT BusinessFacebook Page.
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