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Canadians Becoming More Vulnerable to Cybercrime

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Pegah Memarpour, freelance columnist for Pardon Applications of Canada, explores Canadian’s growing vulnerability to cybercrime.

As the internet becomes central to our lives, and increasingly accessible with devices such as smartphones and tablets, Canadians are becoming more vulnerable to cybercrime.

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Technology has brought us pleasures and added ease to many activities. With online banking, worldwide chats, and our favorite stores available over the internet, the internet has changed everything we do.

However, the popularization of the internet is not only changing the way people live their lives, but it is also changing the way criminals commit certain crimes. Where before people would have to break into cars and houses to steal belongings, or would have to see you to threaten you, theft and bullying can now be done with ease and illusiveness over the web.

On the rise

Recent statistics have brought to light that Canada is being bombarded by malicious software programs and websites that have been used by criminals to access sensitive information and steal people’s money.

Canada ranks second worldwide, just under the U.S., for hosting phishing sites. Phishing sites are created by criminals to try and ruse people so they disclose sensitive information like online banking passwords and names in an attempt to take their money or identities.

In 2011, there was an increase of 39% in the number of malicious software that remotely controls computers and steals user’s information. The number of malicious websites hosted in Canada has also astonishingly ballooned by 239% since 2011.

These trends in cybercrime can be found worldwide. However, Canadian criminals do not experience very strict or serious legal punishments, in comparison to some of the crackdowns in cybercrime laws seen in other countries, like the U.S. for example. These lenient sanctions have been said to make criminals more attracted to the Canadian IP address.

This does not always mean that Canadians are increasingly victimized by cybercrime, as cybercrime has the ability to affect everyone around the world, regardless of where the website or software is generated.

However, Canadians should continue to be cautious. With the growing popularity of smartphones, an increasing amount of important information (bank accounts, credit cards, etc.) are carried on us daily. Meaning that criminals have access to our information everywhere if we are not protected.

“Canada ranks second worldwide, just under the U.S., for hosting phishing sites. Phishing sites are created by criminals to try and ruse people so they disclose sensitive information like online banking passwords and names in an attempt to take their money or identities.”

To make matters worse, as technologies advance, so do the expertise and ingenuity of the criminals.

With an estimated 7 million Canadians falling victim to cybercrime in 2013, almost double the amount from the year prior, cybercrime is costing us over $3 Billion U.S. per year.

Unfortunately, anyone can become a victim of cybercrime.  In June, Statistics Canada found that high-income, highly educated Canadians were the group who was most commonly a victim of online fraud.

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What is being done?

As the cases of cybercrime continue to rise, the RCMP and the government have shown an increasing amount of focus on this new crime trend. Suggesting that this type of crime is very real, and a cause for concern for many Canadians who use the internet for daily activities.

Both the RCMP and the government recognize that the scope and gravity of cybercrime is growing, and that a gap exists in regards to the capabilities of law enforcement when trying to deal with this type of crime. Suggesting that changes must be made to the current system.

With limited funding and resources available to the RCMP to fight against cybercrime, Canadians are urged to take precautionary measures to protect themselves.

The growing concern and focus placed on this type of crime is evident on the RCMP website, that has a page dedicated to tips on how Canadians can reduce their likelihood of victimization. (Please visit http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/cc-report-rapport-cc-eng.htm for tips on how to keep you and your family safe against cybercrime).

Although crime in Canada, overall, has decreased on many fronts (e.g., property crimes, violent crimes), the variation and magnitude of cybercrimes are on the steadily rising. Intellectual property theft, financial crimes, theft of confidential business information, identity theft, bullying, and child exploitation are all examples of crimes that have transformed with the growth and popularity of the internet.

Pegah Memarpour is a freelance columnist for Pardon Applications of Canada, the nationwide processing firm for Canadian Pardon (Record Suspension) & U.S. Entry Waiver applications.  The opinions expressed are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Pardon Applications of Canada.  For a list of statistical references used in this article, or more information on Pardon Applications of Canada, call 866-383-9744 or emailinfo@pardonapplications.com