Cyber Security becomes an increasing concern as more personal information is stored online, and as hackers and scammers become increasingly sophisticated. The Government of Canada recognizes Cyber Security Month in October, and through its annual campaign, informs Canadians about how to spot a cyber threat and how to respond.

What is a cyber threat? The Cyber Security Awareness page posted by the Government of Canada defines a cyber threat as, “an activity intended to compromise the security of an information system (such as a computer network, a website or even a social media page) by altering the availability, integrity, or confidentiality of a system or the information it contains”.  It is motivated by a desire to cause harm to an organization or individual, to gain access to personal information, or to fraudulently obtain money.

How do you know if an email or other communication is fraudulent, and how should you react?

Urgency is a warning sign. A scammer may demand immediate payment for internet service or overdue bills, etc. A common utility scam is a notification that your power will be disconnected immediately unless you make a payment, often in an unusual manner such as bringing cash to a designated meeting place, or by sending bitcoin. Know that legitimate utilities follow strict policies in collecting arrears and will always give due notice before a disconnect. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a “bill collector”, ignore the email or phone call and contact your utility.

Beware of any caller, social media post, or email that asks you to communicate an account number, your Social Insurance Number, credit card number, passwords, or other personal information. Banks, businesses and charities do not ask for personal information through those channels. If you receive demands of this nature, call the agency that the caller claims to represent and the RCMP.

How can you protect yourself from cyber threats? Basic advice includes:

  1. Do not open suspicious emails. Misspelled words or incorrect logos are warning signs.
  2. Never open an attachment from an unknown source.
  3. Do not reveal personal information like passwords or usernames.
  4. Change passwords regularly.
  5. Accept updates to your computer and mobile devices.
  6. Back up your files.

To learn more about scams, or to seek assistance if you have been the victim of fraud, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/fraud-escroquerie/index-eng.htm