Photo By: Clint Patterson from Unsplash

Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the rest of the world is seeing increased numbers of cyberattacks. As a result, Brock is encouraging members of the community to exercise caution when it comes to technology and internet use.

Many cybersecurity breaches stem from human error, when people click on links that originate outside of their organization or download files from unknown senders. This allows cyber criminals access to confidential records and data, which they can then hold hostage for a ransom.

A report published by McCarthy Tetreault LLP, a Quebec law firm, found that cybercrime cost Canadians $6.4 billion in ransoms in 2020, in addition to lost time. This number is expected to increase in light of the invasion of Ukraine. 

While these types of attacks typically target large corporations and government organizations, individuals are also at risk.  The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS) recommends the following safety practices to defend against these threats:

Know How to Identify Spot-Phishing and Spear-Phishing

Some key indicators of phishing emails are bad grammar, spelling mistakes, inconsistencies in the email address, unexpected attachments, or those that request login credentials or payment info. These attacks are often sent to entire groups or organizations, whereas spear-phishing emails target specific individuals and may contain information that is of particular interest. In either case, individuals should refrain from opening attachments or clicking on links from unknown senders.

Review Privacy and Security Settings on Online Profiles

Social media can be an effective communication tool, but it also contains a lot of personal information, much of which can be useful to cyber criminals. Oftentimes, default privacy settings allow much of your profile to be viewed by the general public, so it is imperative to review all of these settings both upon account creation and periodically afterwards. It is also important to set security questions that are not known by other people to ensure your account is secure.

Keep Mobile Applications Updated

Mobile applications are frequently updated to include security patches in light of new-found weaknesses. These updates may be annoying, but they are important because they keep the information stored on the application secure. An easy way to keep up with this is to set up automatic updates on your computer and mobile phone, so that they can be installed when your device is not in use.

Store Data Securely and Establish Back-up Procedures

One of the easiest ways to protect electronic data is to install an antivirus program. Though these provide a high level of protection, it is also important to periodically back up vital documents (either locally or on a cloud service) and practice how to recover this data in case of an attack.

Set Strong and Unique Passwords

This one is a tale as old as time, but it is more important now than ever before to set different passwords for different platforms. These should be difficult to guess and contain a variety of number and letter types. Where possible, you should also use two-factor authentication to add an additional layer of protection.

Individuals who are worried they may have been exposed to a cybersecurity attack, or notice their devices are acting strangely should contact the ITS Help Desk via phone at 905-688-5550 (ext. 4357) or email [email protected] as soon as possible. Alternatively, individuals and organizations can report cyber incidents through the CCCS reporting tool where they can find additional guidance and resources.