Education is key to turning awareness into action and strengthening your own cyber safety.
Cybercrime continues to evolve and grow in sophistication and could cost economies more than (USD) $10 trillion globally by 2025 according to Interpol, an intergovernmental body supporting police organizations.
Adam Evans, the RBC executive responsible for the bank’s cyber security strategy, points to ‘crime as a service’ industry. Canadians are “putting more personal information online than ever before. Criminals will collect and sell your information through data brokerage services,” says Adam. “Ultimately, someone can then target you through email and phishing campaigns.”
Cyber criminals don’t have to be overly technical or have a lot of money to launch these campaigns, as there are platforms they can rent from larger organized crime entities. “They have 24/7 support structures in place just like the legitimate world.” Ransomware, which locks individuals out of their computer systems or threatens to publish their personal information, has created ancillary services to support cyber criminals. This includes extortion, negotiations and the transferring of stolen money. Moreover, these capabilities have been franchised, just like a retailer or food chain would do to scale up their operations.
Cyber criminals also impersonate public figures and well-known brands to trick an unsuspecting public. A popular tactic is setting up a fake news site with bogus product reviews. Those interested in learning more about a product are then directed to another website designed to collect personal information and/or extract money. Available online, called The Vault. It offers useful tips on how individuals can practice good cyber hygiene.
A key aim of RBC is to help build up a society’s ‘herd immunity’ in the digital world, explains Adam. As more people strengthen their own defence systems, it becomes harder — and more expensive — for criminal activities to take root and spread in the community. Despite the threats posed by cyber criminals, many Canadians have a false sense of security about their own cyber safety. Ironically, those who have grown up digitally could be the most vulnerable.
Adam explains: “Younger generations are great consumers of technology. But they don’t necessarily understand the pitfalls of posting pictures of themselves on public forums, or geo-locating to let others know exactly where they are. And so they don’t have the healthy level of skepticism you find in other cohorts who have not been immersed at a very young age in the digital world.”
This may explain why people aged 18-34 are less likely than those 55+ to update their antivirus software or change their passwords, according to a survey conducted by RBC.
“The disconnect between awareness and action is the crux of the problem. We are hearing more about cyber risks in the news and on social. But that hasn’t translated into doing much about protecting oneself. What’s more, many survey respondents were predominantly focused on viruses and malware. They’re not necessarily thinking about their digital personas and the information they’re posting online.” RBC’s survey findings suggest a need to broaden society’s understanding of cyber risk. And importantly, it’s not just learning about the technology. People need to understand better how their behaviour can help protect themselves against criminal elements. “There are basic things that we can do to secure our online accounts and to make sure we’re taking full advantage of the security capabilities, in many cases for free. Education is key to turn awareness into action. But many people don’t know where to start.”
The Vault: A cyber safety playbook
Education is a big reason why RBC made a playbook for cyber security av In an increasingly digital world, the safer we are individually, the better off we’ll be as a society.
“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in what technology can and will do to enhance our lives,” says Adam. “But to get the most out of it, we need to understand how to use it safely and securely. That’s how we’ll truly realize the gains of consuming technology in our interconnected world.”
Photo: Adam (right), seen with members of his team, notes that cybercrime capabilities have been franchised just like a retailer or food chain would do to scale up their operations.