Rural Saskatchewan needs to address cyber security threats: expert

In 2022, it is nearly impossible to not have a digital footprint. Work, school and social media have all been brought into the digital age, and with it comes a focus on cyber security.

October marks cyber security awareness month in Canada, and one expert believes local governments need to take the time to review their defenses, especially in rural areas.

Read more: Saskatchewan to introduce centralized online learning for 2023 school year

Being in a rural area, there is often less money put towards cyber security than in larger centres.

“There are big differences depending on the municipality size and what the areas of priority are,” cyber security advocate Brennen Schmidt said.

“You may have a little bit of an imbalance between municipalities of a smaller size and what they can invest in cybersecurity specifically, versus those municipalities that may be larger and have the ability to invest in it.”

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According to the Canadian centre for cyber security, a quarter of Canadians say they have been the victim of a virus, malware or spyware attack.

“You might have a computer that’s been sitting on the floor somewhere and it may have a lot of the utilities and financial information,” Schmidt said “Then all of a sudden there’s an email that comes in, click on that email, and all of a sudden there’s ransomware.”

Schmidt argues Saskatchewan municipalities should consider building their cyber security budgets now, for a better future.

“Municipalities, education and health care are being hit the hardest just because of how crucial the services that they offer are and more importantly, what kind of information they collect and maintain,” he explained.

Read more: Amid recession fears, Canadian businesses risk losing sight of cybersecurity: research

For Schmidt, the perfect example of why investing needs to take place comes after the attack in 2021 that canceled appointments and crippled healthcare services in Newfoundland, and an attack in Waterloo this summer that compromised the personal information of many students.

Moving forward, he believes there needs to be more discussion on cyber security in rural areas.

“I think the first step in solving this challenge is going to be actually moving away from the conversation of money. And in fact, it needs to be going towards the conversation of actually engaging in a dialog between municipalities and starting to have those conversations about what shared services agreements look like.”

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Similar to a fire department that shares infrastructure with other areas, Schmidt believes the same should be applied for cyber security in Saskatchewan.

“We’ve reached that critical juncture, especially given the rise in cyber-attacks in municipalities across Canada and North America,” Schmidt explained. “Now is the time to really start engaging in that conversation and starting to say, let’s actually see what capabilities we have.”

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Over 70% of cyber fraud scams in 2021 via internet: Canada Industry and Technology committee

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