October 6, 2008

Banks Team Up for Cyber Security Awareness Month to Help Canadians Avoid Online Threats From Social Networking and File Sharing Sites

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 6, 2008) - The Internet has made it easier than ever to bank, shop, communicate with others and find information about almost anything at any time. But as Internet use among Canadians continues to rise, so too does the number of criminals who commit identity theft and fraud using information they've found online.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and to raise awareness among Canadians, banks have teamed up to provide information, consumer tips and an interactive quiz to educate consumers about online threats so they can protect themselves and their computers. The information can be found at www.cba.ca.

"With Canadians using the Internet in many new ways, criminals unfortunately have an even greater number of options to obtain and illegally use individuals' personal information," said Nancy Hughes Anthony, president and CEO of the Canadian Bankers Association. "This is why it's more important than ever for Canadians to educate themselves so they can make smart decisions to protect themselves from fraud and ensure their personal information stays safe."

The recent popularity of social networking sites has provided fraudsters with a new target for their scams. Social networking sites promote open communication and encourage the exchange of information. Such sites can give people a false sense of security, causing them to let their guard down and share personal information that they normally would keep private.

File sharing networks, often called "peer-to-peer" or "P2P" sites, are also popular hang out spots for online criminals because they allow users to anonymously upload and download media files across global networks. Beyond the legal issues relating to copyright infringements, downloading files on peer-to-peer sites is extremely risky because criminals can distribute objectionable or illegal files and viruses that are disguised to look like innocent downloads of popular songs or movies.

Take steps to protect yourself online

Banks and other businesses have sophisticated security systems in place that are very difficult to overcome, which is why criminals are online trying to get confidential, personal information directly from unsuspecting Canadians. Fortunately there are a number of steps individuals can take to protect themselves and their home computers:

- Limit the amount of information you share publicly. Never post your phone number, address or birth date online as it could be used to commit identity fraud.

- When creating a profile on a social networking site, only accept friend requests from individuals you know.

- Check the privacy and security settings of your social networking site. Don't rely on the site's default privacy settings as it may give strangers complete access to your profile page.

- Using file sharing websites is a high-risk activity but, if you do choose to do this, regularly update your antivirus software to ensure it is up to date with the most recent version available.

- If using a file sharing website, be sure to change the program's default settings. Always manually determine which folders and subfolders you will share with your network.

To test your knowledge of online threats and for more tips on how to protect yourself and your computer please visit www.cba.ca.

"In sports it is often said that the best offence is a strong defence. The same is true when it comes to protecting yourself from cyber crime," said Ms. Hughes Anthony. "A person's best defence against fraudsters and other Internet criminals is knowledge. Educating yourself about the latest online scams, the types of information criminals are after, and the current security measures available can go a long way to ensure you don't become a victim of online crime."

Growing Internet Use

Canadians are making greater use of the Internet than ever. A recent survey by Statistics Canada found that almost three- quarters, or 19.2 million Canadians, aged 16 and older had logged on to the Internet for personal use in the past 12 months. This was up from just over two-thirds of Canadians in 2005.

And a survey by Ipsos Reid found that by the end of 2007 nearly a third of all Canadians had created an online profile using a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace. The survey also found that Canadian users spend an average of 5.4 hours a week visiting such sites.

The Canadian Bankers Association works on behalf of 51 domestic chartered banks, foreign bank subsidiaries and foreign bank branches operating in Canada and their 257,000 employees to advocate for efficient and effective public policies governing banks and to promote an understanding of the banking industry and its importance to Canadians and the Canadian economy.

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