Canadian firms are vulnerable to online threats

by Andrew Roach on July 15, 2013

The growing reliance on digital technology has meant that a lot of our private and essential information is now passed and stored via the web.

While it might seem like a safe way to pass information across, a leaked government report has revealed that most Canadian firms are susceptible to attacks from hackers and other digital threats.

The memo revealed that firms failed to ensure that their software was updated against new viruses and were also exposed to programmes that could browse and view customers’ personal information.

Several major Canadian companies have suffered serious cyber breaches in the last few months including energy firm Telvent who suffered a breach back in September 2012.

After the PRISM scandal in the US last month, there has been a lot of focus on making sure that data stored and used by Canadian firms is kept in a secure location.

But the memo from Public Safety Canada revealed that the government had found significant gaps in the security software used by companies to protect their networks.

One particular problem was that there was no defence against new threats that were appearing online in other parts of the world. This was underlined in the memo that was published by CBC stating that “the current situation is that there are an increasing number of new software vulnerabilities that can be exploited to gain access to companies’ networks.”

It was also highlighted that many companies weren’t doing enough to update their servers in a timely manner with the report noting that “the scale of the problem is significant. The cost of maintaining a highly secure network is high for each company, and they may not be willing to make that investment.”

This reported lack of investment by private companies is a concerning thought with many of the nation’s infrastructural needs such as utilities and transport run by private companies throughout the country.

After all, the Telvent incident occurred when the company’s security software failed to alert monitors of the breach until Chinese hackers had already got into the network.

Even though this involved one of the basic fundamental utilities that we need to access, there was nothing federal bodies couldn’t have done to prevent the breach.

With many of the infrastructural networks in the private sector, the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC) is unable to force regulations upon each company citing it as a “potential minefield”.

But something will need to be done soon though as the Internet is very much a part of our daily lives and is now a critical resource to handle and manage data which affects communities across the country.

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