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Debbie Coull-Cicchini, Executive vice president for Ontario, Western & Atlantic Canada at Intact Insurance

It’s easy to believe it will never happen to us, so we click and hope. But as intrepid internet users, Canadians are at high risk of cyber-related fraud

“Living in a connected world brings great opportunity, convenience and a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends,” says Debbie Coull-Cicchini, the executive vice president for Ontario, Western & Atlantic Canada at Intact Insurance. “But it leaves people very exposed – and these risks should be everyone’s concern.”

The techniques of fraud artists are varied and constantly changing, she stresses. “Cyber-risk and identity theft are escalating.” According to Risk Based Security in Richmond, Virginia, as of June 30th of this year, Canada had the third most cyber incidences in the world, so there is a huge financial impact. In 48 privacy breaches, 12.5 million records were exposed.

For individuals, identity theft and cyber-extortion are of critical concern and could happen in a number of ways. “You may receive a monthly credit card statement in your mail that’s not yours; someone has stolen your identity and opened credit accounts with false information. You could click on a link or an email and be cyber-attacked by a virus that infects your computer to search for valuable information or even shut it down until the fraudster receives a ransom,” says Ms. Coull-Cicchini.

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Cyber-extortion can exploit the relationship between businesses and their client base as well, she says. Most businesses now rely on e-commerce strategies and internet-based technology, but even the most traditional companies are now vulnerable to cyber-crime due to reputational risks. According to Symantec, 49 per cent of businesses lost customers, 43 per cent reported damage to their brand, 41 per cent noted increased expenses and 37 per cent reported decreased revenue after privacy breaches.

“Businesses large and small need to take a close look at cyber-risk within their organization. What are they doing to ensure their systems are safe?” she says.

Should you become a victim, you’re not alone – brokers are advocates for their customers. 

— Debbie Coull-Cicchini, Executive vice president for Ontario, Western & Atlantic Canada at Intact Insurance

Cyber-criminals move as fast as wireless speeds, and as one approach becomes well known and therefore easier to avoid, others are being launched. With more and more “Internet of Things” devices going online, such as computerized appliances and cars, households and organizations become increasingly vulnerable. But, according to CyberScout, 97 per cent of breaches can be prevented with basic measures that include firewalls and anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, says Ms. Coull-Cicchini.

For businesses, employee education, policies and protocol are essential, she adds. “Companies should enforce strong password procedures and train staff on how to avoid cyber-attacks such as phishing as well as on basics such as shredding sensitive documents and visiting only secure websites.”

Not surprisingly, cyber-fraud is also a concern for the insurance industry, which has been instrumental in developing both educational tools and policies that offer protection in the event of an attack.

Just as with other financial risks, says Ms. Coull-Cicchini, “brokers and insurers are here for Canadians to turn to. Should you become a victim, you’re not alone – brokers are advocates for their customers. They have the knowledge and experience to assess personal and commercial insurance needs and, most importantly, recommend the right coverage. They help people navigate what can be a complex world.”

Intact, known for partnering with other organizations to create innovative solutions, recently enhanced their cyber-risk products to address the gaps in traditional policies designed before cyber-crime was an issue. The two types of policies are “my Identity,” which covers individuals, and “privacy breach,” which provides a risk management option for businesses. “Both are designed to offset some of the costly financial impacts of identity theft or privacy breach, and to also provide access to expert and legal advice after an incident, offering extra peace of mind,” Ms. Coull-Cicchini explains. “You are never alone when it comes to cyber-risks. Your insurer and broker are here to help.”

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BY THE NUMBERS:According to the Canadian Internet RegistrationAuthority (CIRA):

Canadians spend moretime online than anyoneelse in the world, at 36.7 hours per month on average;

52% of homes have five or more internet-connected devices (and nine per cent have 10 or more);

86% of Canada’s households have a broadband connection; and

4 out of 5 mobile phones are smartphones.

Advertising produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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