We recently asked investors to share their concerns regarding their finances and investments. Cybercrime was high on the list. It’s a valid concern. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t read or hear about a security breach somewhere in the world. But what is not always discussed, is what that represents.
A recent report from the latest Economic Impact of Cybercrime report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and McAfee, estimates that cybercrime may now cost the world almost US$600 billion a year — with financial institutions being a prime target.
The threats of phishing, ransomware and software vulnerabilities are real and they’re here to stay. Criminals are getting smarter and more sophisticated every day. But the same can be said for cybersecurity
experts and the technology that’s available — and being developed — to help companies, institutions and governments protect themselves and the rest of us.
Here at CIBC Wood Gundy, we have a rigorous cybersecurity program in place
We monitor trends in the threat landscape and use advanced solutions to detect, prevent and respond to threats as quickly as possible. We maintain a strong security foundation by investing in our people, processes and technology. We strengthen our cyber resiliency through simulation exercises and continual validation of our defenses.
We also work actively with government, regulators and the industry to ensure that our security practices are best in class. In Canada, we are leading an industry committee focused on improving the cybersecurity resilience of the financial services sector, we recently represented the Canadian banking sector at the G7 and our bank’s Chief Information Security Officer was invited to a meeting with senior government officials in Ottawa to discuss internet security, cyber security defenses and best practices in other countries.
All to say we are committed to playing a leadership role and ensuring our industry’s security practices are best in class and our cyber defenses strong. But you also have an important role to play.
Your own diligence is also essential
Cyber criminals don’t just attack companies, institutions and governments. They also attack individuals — us — on our social media, personal computers and other devices. We’re all vulnerable and we all have to be on the alert. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from cyber attacks:
• Make sure your devices and any software you use are as secure as possible. Install good quality anti- virus, anti-spy and firewall software. You can also encrypt your computer’s hard drive. Update your systems regularly. Some home insurance providers offer identity theft coverage — check to see if yours does.
• Avoid using the same passwords everywhere and make sure your passwords are strong. They should be at least 12 characters long and include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols — and stay away from the obvious choices. Change your passwords on a regular basis. And whenever possible opt for multi-factor authentication — which means in addition to providing your password you also have to answer either a security question or provide a code that’s been sent to your mobile phone.
• Store your passwords securely with a password manager app.
• Don’t use public computers or WIFI networks to access your financial information online.
• Back up all important and personal data and records on an external hard drive or cloud-based service and also keep a detailed record of your holdings.
• Watch out for phishing emails. Even if they look legitimate do not click on attachments or open emails if you’re not expecting them. Verify them first. Always report any suspicious activity. Same applies to your social media. And if you suspect you’ve been phished change your password immediately and advise your contacts.
• Never, ever give out personal information of any kind to anyone you don’t know or do business with. Never, ever.
Remember the saying “the best defense is offense?” Usually applied to sports and military combat, it’s a strategy we should all be following — because, in a sense, we are at war — with cyber criminals. And while we can rest easy knowing that credible organizations have teams of dedicated cybersecurity specialists there to protect us, we must also do our part to protect ourselves. It is up to us to help the professionals help us.
Alan Friedman is an Investment Advisor with CIBC Wood Gundy in Toronto. The views of Alan Friedman do not necessarily reflect those of CIBC World Markets Inc. CIBC Wood Gundy is a division of CIBC World Markets Inc. a subsidiary of CIBC and a Member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. If you are currently a CIBC Wood Gundy client, please contact your Investment Advisor.