Count cybercrime among the vertical sectors that have benefited from the pandemic.
An FBI report last year said that complaints about cyberattacks were up 400 per cent from the pre-pandemic year before.
In Winnipeg, the Manitoba Institute of Trades & Technology (MITT) hopes to raise the community-wide consciousness of the problem during October’s Cybersecurity Awareness month.
MITT has made a major commitment in the field, launching specialized industry partnerships, a suite of two-year courses and is just about to start a series of micro-credential cybersecurity courses of varying levels of complexity.
Kathy Knight, the executive director of MITT’s CyberWave, MITT’s recently rebranded Cybersecurity Technology Centre, said that while there is all sorts of technical complexity when it comes to identifying and preventing things such as malware, there is also a governance issue that can be just as important.
“Training is the first line of defence,” she said. “Making sure people have an awareness of the tools and methods that the bad actors use to get you to do thing you shouldn’t do is important. It’s probably one of the best things any company can do.”
The graduates of MITT’s courses boast 90 per cent employment rate and there is a growing number of companies that take on students for practicums, often eventually hiring them on.
With so many people working at home during the pandemic — sometimes outside the firewall or whatever preventative tools a company may have in place — it makes everyone that much more vulnerable.
Eddie Phillips, co-owner of Shield Networks, a Winnipeg cybersecurity firm, and a cybersecurity evangelist who does public speaking on the issue, said it is not that hard for enterprising crooks to figure out the way to best appeal to the sentiments of someone they may be targeting.
“If someone is on social media, it’s pretty easy to figure out who you are affiliated with, what charities you contribute to or clubs you are a member of,” he said. “It is getting easier and easier, unfortunately.”
While many of us may think our information is not valuable and that we really don’t have anything to worry about, Phillips said there is a great market for all sorts of personal information.
MITT is hosting a number of public information sessions throughout the month,
Phillips will be part of panel discussion at Merchant Kitchen on Oct. 13 on secure practices for remote working, with a special emphasis for artists and musician on protecting creative content that is shared and manipulated online.
The emotional and psychological tactics that cybercriminals use will be addressed by Dr. Jessica Barker, a leading cyber psychologist, on Oct. 26 in a session at Inn at The Forks on hacking the mind of the hacker.
From Oct. 18-24 the CyberWave team will set up at centre court of Polo Parkmall, where they will help you check if your email and/or phone numbers have been hacked and sold.
Phillips said the cybersecurity talent pool is thin in Winnipeg and his firm often has to sub-contract some work to international firms.
He said that’s why he was “thrilled” when he learned of the CyberWave courses that are being launched. (Phillips will be the instructor on at least one of them.)
“Generally speaking we find that most companies and individuals don’t have enough security in place,” he said. “I’m half kidding but I sometimes say we have two types of clients: Ones that really understand the value of technology and security; and ones who have been victims. There are a whole bunch of people out there who are open to attack and don’t really know it.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.