The numbers sound frightening.
Every day, the Canadian government’s public safety department successfully blocks 600 million attempts to find vulnerabilities in Ottawa’s computer networks.
The rapidly expanding number of cyber attacks is the reason why École Polytechnique de Montréal has launched a new bachelor’s program in cyber security.
The program is a consolidation of three previous certificates in cyber fraud, cyber security and cyber investigation
Worldwide, there’s an urgent need for as many as two million specialists in cyber security, and Canada is no different.
“I’d say (we’ll need) between 20 and 30,000 in the next few years in cyber security,” said Benoit Dupont, the Canada research chair of cyber security at the Université de Montréal, of which the École Polytechnique is affiliated.
Those who graduate can expect to land a well-paying job quickly, he said.
“They’ll probably earn something around $100,000 very quickly into the career.”
The relentless, staggering attacks often start with organized crime, explained cyber security expert Terry Cutler.
“Organized crime is having a field day with this because they don’t need to rob banks anymore. Now they can infect your computer and hold you hostage and demand a ransom to get your data back,” he said.
A smaller percentage of the attacks is state sponsored, “to acquire intellectual property, or strategic information or trying to shape the outcome of an election, as we’ve seen in the U.S.,” added Dupont.
Cutler frequently runs what are called intrusion tests, trying to find a way in to a company’s computer system – and frequently he gets in.
“Once I’m in there, I have full control of the system,” he said.
The anti-virus software many run on home computers struggle to keep up with the attacks.
“Every four hours, these databases are trying to update themselves to keep up with the latest threats, but these new viruses now are custom made, so when they come through, the virus scanners don’t know what this is and lets it through,” he said.
Think of it as a biological virus on steroids, adapting and evolving rapidly.
“Every couple of hours now they can spawn a new variant of the virus,” explained Cutler.
In the U.K., it’s estimated that half of all crimes are linked in some way to cyber crime
This year’s security breach at Equifax left millions vulnerable to fraud after their personal information was compromised
Much of the solution to this growing problem may lie in computers themselves – making them smarter and faster.
“A lot of the work that’s being done by those professionals now is probably going to be done in the very near future by machines and AIs,” said Dupont.
Cutlers warns there’s no magic solution to automated cyber attacks.
“We have to protect every door, right? Every entry point. But the hackers need just one way in,” he said.
Published Friday, November 3, 2017 12:07PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, November 3, 2017 1:03PM EDT
I’m a government cleared cybersecurity expert (a Certified Ethical Hacker), and the Vice-President of Cyber at SIRCO, an investigations and protections firm in Montréal, Canada.
I’m also a frequent contributor to National & Global media reportage about cyber-crime, spying, security failures, internet scams, and the real social network dangers that families and individuals face every day.