BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Are Atlantic Canadians overconfident in online safety?

The number of Atlantic Canadians working from home has increased dramatically during the pandemic. This has been accompanied by an increased reliance on the internet and an increase in online commerce.

A change in online habits has led to the growth of a wide range of activities, as well as an increased reliance on social media as a key channel for communication and information gathering.

But these changing habits have also led to increased opportunities for cybercriminals and a strong growth in cybercrime. In fact, 2021 was a historic year for financial losses reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, with $379 million lost to scams and fraud, a 130% increase from 2020.

Our recent survey results showed that four in 10 Atlantic Canadians have been victims of online fraud in which someone posing as a legitimate representative of an organization asks them for personal information or ‘silver. A third (34%) have had an online account hacked or accessed by someone without permission, and three in 10 (28%) have had their personal information leaked due to an organization’s data breach. In total, nearly two-thirds of Atlantic Canadians (64%) have experienced at least one of the three.

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In July, Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest health authority notified nearly 40,000 people that their privacy had been breached following a cyberattack last fall. Such attacks have been experienced by retailers, car dealerships and other businesses in our region.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, three out of four businesses depend on their website to function, and one in five small businesses have been affected by a cyberattack or data breach. This is a serious consideration for businesses and consumers.

Despite this, our latest poll of over 1,500 Atlantic Canadians showed that most (64%) are confident that they know how to protect their personal information in online spaces, although many have been victims of fraud. Only three in 10 are not confident, although confidence levels decline with age.

The people we interviewed had varying levels of confidence in the ability of service providers to protect our personal information from online security breaches, depending on the type of organization. Atlantic Canadians trust financial institutions the most, followed by government, to keep their personal information safe online, but have limited trust in retailers or social media platforms.

Our results also show that trust varies across the region, with residents of Newfoundland and Labrador being less confident than those of other Atlantic provinces in the ability of financial institutions, governments and retailers to protect them, which may directly reflect health care information. breach.

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For businesses, dedicating an appropriate budget to cybersecurity is essential, as is ensuring ongoing efforts to protect the data collected. Ongoing training from an expert IT organization is one way to ensure that employees are continually reminded of possible threats. A cyberattack is not only inconvenient and costly, it can pose a very serious threat to an organization. For businesses selling products through e-commerce or storing their customers’ electronic data, a systems breach or cyberattack can be devastating. Companies must continue to focus on the necessary measures to keep their data and customer information secure.

Despite all the ways the internet can help us, as consumers we need to be ever vigilant to protect ourselves online. There are a few basic steps to easily protect yourself, such as two-factor authentication, learning to recognize scams and threats, not sharing personal information, understanding how organizations protect your personal information, monitoring credit, avoiding to reuse passwords across multiple websites or services; and to avoid performing sensitive work or financial transactions over public Internet connections.

The results discussed come from a random telephone survey of 1,500 Atlantic Canadians aged 18 or older, conducted between Aug. 3 and Aug. 31. Results are accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Margaret Brigley, CEO, and Margaret Chapman, COO, are business partners of Narrative Research, a national, nonpartisan market research firm based in Halifax.

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