According to a recent survey, most Canadians reported spending an average of 24.5 hours per week online during 2016, up from 22 hours per week during the previous year. In addition, Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 spent 34 hours online per week in 2016.In both cases, that adds up to more than one full day each week!
Much of this rise can be attributed to easy access to goods and services through online shopping, as well as catching up with the latest posts or blogs or chatting with family and friends on social media.
It’s no secret: being online can be fun! But because much of our online activity involves sharing our personal information, you need to be aware that there are also risks involved that could lead to you being a victim of cyber crime or identity theft.
Cyber Crime in Canada
Cyber crimes are especially frightening because you don’t often know you’re a victim until it’s too late. With online criminals becoming more sophisticated, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself, your credit rating, and your assets.
According to Statistics Canada, fraud accounted for more than half of cyber crimes committed in 2012. The definition of fraud includes misappropriated assets (such as monetary assets/cash or supplies and equipment), bribery and corruption, and mortgage fraud.
These crimes can be devastating as they could lead to financial ruin, public embarrassment, and health issues. In many cases, the criminals are hiding far away in another country and rarely brought to justice. Worst of all, what they’ve stolen is often gone forever.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your business from suspicious online activity.
Protect Yourself from Cyber Theft
The best way to protect yourself from cyber theft, as well as real-world crime, is to develop good habits that secure your online activities.
- Use strong passwords: Your password might be easier to remember by simply combining your first name and year of birth, but doing this makes it easier for criminals to guess. Combine letters, numbers, and special characters to make them as cryptic as possible, and change them regularly.
- Install protective software: Keep your firewall, anti-virus/malware programs, and spyware software running and up to date to prevent unwanted viruses, hackers, and spyware from attacking your computer.
- Update your operating system: Using outdated Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems can make your computer vulnerable to attack. Always keep them updated to minimize the chances of a breach.
- Be cautious on social media: Make sure your security settings are up to date, and be careful not to post information that gives away your routines, location, or anything else that could compromise your security. This includes when you go on vacation, which tells criminals that no one is home!
- Use secure wireless networks: Your home Wi-Fi should be properly secured with an encrypted password so it is safe to carry out financial transactions online, but be careful when using public Wi-Fi networks that could be potentially unsecure. Avoid online shopping and banking or anything that requires you to provide a password on unsafe networks.
- Watch out for suspicious emails: This goes beyond those emails from a foreign prince. Thousands of fraudulent emails pretending to be from reputable companies and government agencies are sent out on a regular basis. Many of them employ scare tactics to elicit an immediate response from you. Be careful – don’t click on any links in the email or give out personal information if you’re unsure.
- Turn off & secure unused equipment: Make sure to turn off any microphones, cameras, or video cameras connected to your computer when you’re not using them. Also, don’t forget to properly secure your smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices that connect to the Internet as well. They’re just as vulnerable to attack as your computer is.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month
Public Safety Canada has joined an international effort to help educate the public about cyber security. Part of this initiative involves a campaign held each October called Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM).
CSAM is designed to help Canadian families, individuals, and businesses be safe and secure online. By following simple steps to protect themselves, Canadians will not only lessen the chance of being victimized, but also know how to spot suspicious activity before it becomes a real threat.
Public Safety Canada cooperates with the Canadian public, as well as provincial and international government and law enforcement agencies, in an effort to keep Canadians well informed with regard to the latest online safety techniques, and hopefully one step ahead of those who wish to breach them.
Learn How Merit Can Protect You
If you have questions about cyber crime, or would like to further protect yourself, family, and business from cyber crime with specialized insurance products from Merit, call your broker at 1-800-563-3383 or contact us. We’ll find the right insurance for your needs!