Editorial: Invest in filling cybersecurity holes now


Cybersecurity should be the new watchword for Canadian businesses.

The latest red flag comes courtesy of Quebec’s Desjardins Group. The financial institution revealed in a November 1 press release that the extent of the privacy breach it originally announced on June 20 had expanded to include 4.2 million of its members.

But large financial corporations are not the only targets for online crooks.

A survey of Canadian businesses conducted earlier this year by Carbon Black, a Nasdaq-listed cybersecurity company, found that 88% of Canadian companies surveyed reported suffering a data breach in the past 12 months and a staggering 90% said they have security concerns around digital transformation projects and the rollout of 5G networks.

That’s disturbing, but more disturbing is the vulnerability of major public infrastructure and critical links in trade and other goods movement chains to targeted online attacks. For example, a recent University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies report conducted in partnership with insurance provider Lloyd’s estimated that one cyberattack could cost major Asia-Pacific ports like Vancouver US$110 billion. The message for businesses in these and other examples is the heightened need for vigilance. But that requires investment in better technology and training. Not all companies have the resources or leadership awareness to improve in those areas. One solution being pushed by the Electronic Transactions Association is for the federal government to institute a targeted tax to help small businesses with the resources needed to upgrade their cyberattack defences. Another tax from a federal government that is already driving the country deeper into debt and making it harder for businesses to afford to operate in Canada will not be welcomed by its business community. But failing to address the growing threat to business survival from dark criminal forces now plying the internet is not an option.

A combination of government incentives and proactive business measures to fight those forces is needed.