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Cyber security tops concerns among Canadian small business owners: poll

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Economy Suppliers/People

Forty per cent of small businesses identified that having devices infected by a virus or malware is now perceived as their biggest threat, the new RBC poll shows.

Cyber security concerns are rising to the top of business risks as ranked by Canadian small business owners, according to a new survey commissioned by RBC.

The RBC 2021 Cyber Security Poll shows that nearly half of Canada’s small business owners report that they anticipate becoming a victim of a cybercrime in the next 12 months – a percentage significantly higher than seen among the general population (34 per cent). Forty per cent of small businesses identified that having devices infected by a virus or malware is now perceived as their biggest threat, ranking higher than falling victim to an online scam or fraud (24 per cent), or property damage (24 per cent).

“Faced with a fast-changing landscape, small businesses are adapting by adopting more technology and adopting it faster than ever before,” Adam Evans, RBC chief information security officer, RBC, said in an Oct. 18 news release. “Though the increasingly digital economy has brought new challenges for Canada’s small businesses, our poll reveals that the risks are accompanied by a growing awareness of these hazards, indicating that small business owners are responding to these risks with the resilience and determination we’ve come to expect of them.”

While cyber security concerns are on their radar, the poll also reveals that only a small number of small business owners (24 per cent) feel “’very” knowledgeable in regard to cyber security threats. That number rises slightly to 27 per cent among those who have experienced a previous cyber security incident. When asked if they feel prepared for a potential cyber-attack, only 16 per cent feel very prepared with 19 per cent of those who have experienced a previous incident feeling very prepared.


The poll revealed that the majority of small business owners are responding to cyber security risks by handling cyber security risks themselves (57 per cent), rather than relying on in-house IT teams (25 per cent) or outsourced IT consultants. In particular, those who haven’t previously experienced a cyber security incident (62 per cent) are significantly more likely to take a do-it-yourself approach compared to past victims of cyber security incidents (51 per cent).

The most common preventative measures small businesses have taken are: installing updated anti-virus software (60 per cent), implementing firewall security for internet connections (56 per cent) and encrypting and hiding all Wi-Fi networks (43 per cent).

To address this gap, RBC says, it has created the Cyber Security Awareness and Education Website, which is designed to help business owners and the community with the latest in cyber security insights, best practices, tips, and guidelines. To develop their cyber security mitigation and crisis management plans, small businesses can consider:

  1. Prioritizing measures including multi-factor authentication, mandatory employee training and limited authority to install software.
  2. Thinking through risks and create a prioritized list of possible cyber events unique to the organization.
  3. Identifying key stakeholders and putting together a list of key contact information, both technical and non-technical persons in the event their services or contact is needed.
  4. Outlining an engagement procedure, which will guide the organization’s plan in response to a cyber event, detailing how events will be handled and communicated.
  5. Creating a communications template used to address impacted parties in the event of a cyber security incident.

For more information, click on this link.

The RBC 2021 Cyber Security Poll was conducted by Ipsos Canada from Aug. 24-27, 2021. More than 3,000 surveys were completed online by Canadian adults, represented in six different regions (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan/Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada).


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