New world, new threats, new solutions

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

Public safety and security should always be top of mind for politicians at all levels of government. In the not-so-distant past, public security dealt with foreign and domestic threats in the form of military attacks, terrorism, natural disasters, or dangerous weather cycles. But now, every year we hear about multiple data leaks and warnings that the personal information of thousands or millions of people has been compromised. There’s no question that this is happening. Cyberthugs are a real threat to society.

In the past 15 years since the rise of the smart phone, I have seen our daily lives hinged more and more on technology than I could have ever imagined. I sometimes wonder how I paid bills or conducted my daily business before.

With all this convenience has come greater risk. Cyberthugs are always looking for ways to earn a quick buck. They are often looking to do something malicious not only to individuals, but to public and private institutions also.

Back in 2020, in Cybercrime Magazine, I read a frightening prognostication that stuck with me. The writer predicted cyber crime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by next year. That is roughly the combined market capitalization of Apple, Nvidia, and Microsoft on the day I write this. They are the biggest companies in the world by market capitalization.

As a countermeasure, governments and corporations have been amping up their cybersecurity initiatives. Cybersecurity strategies are implemented to protect and defend internet-connected devices and services from attacks by hackers, spammers, and cyberthugs.  Again, these strategies are used by governments and corporations to guard against crimes like phishing, identity theft, data breaches, and related financial losses.

Cybersecurity is ever-evolving. As technology improves and makes life easier for all of us, it can make it better for bad guys too. I imagine the cyberthugs are rubbing their hands together as they contemplate how they can profit from new AI e-crimes.  It’s imperative cybersecurity professionals remain a few steps ahead of any bad actors.

Over the past few years, the Ontario government has made safeguarding data and information a top priority. They have embraced October as Cyber Security Awareness Month while they have worked to shift online the delivery of services to people and businesses in Ontario. 

In 2020, the government appointed a 10-member expert panel to identify gaps and challenges across municipalities and the public sector in the Cyber Security Expert Panel Report.

That report “focused on ways the Ontario Public Service and broader public sector organizations can strengthen the province’s cyber security network and better protect the public. Through this, the province is striving to provide the guidance and supports that municipalities and organizations like hospitals, school boards, colleges and universities, and children’s aid societies need to prevent and respond to future cyber attacks.”

Recently, I had a very good conversation with my colleague Kaleed Rasheed who last September hosted ministers and deputy ministers from across Canada for the 3rd annual Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (FPT) Symposium on Digital Trust and Cyber Security. I know Kaleed is adamant that we keep cyber security at the forefront of government vigilance.

Overall, much of this is new to so many of us including me. I’m hopeful that as technology becomes an even bigger part of our lives, governments will keep responding to protect us from bigger potential crimes. Again, I’m learning about all this as it quickly evolves, but I will keep you apprised of developments as they occur.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk