Surviving and Thriving in the Digital Economy
The School of Public Policy Publications, Vol. 11:11 (2018)
14 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 15, 2018
Cyber-crime is growing exponentially and Canadian governments at all levels have not kept pace quickly enough to protect both themselves and private enterprise. Evolving technology allows for ever-more sophisticated cyberthreats to intellectual property, but some businesses and governments have neither changed their pre-internet thinking nor established adequate safeguards. Protection should start with educational campaigns about the scope and varieties of risk that permeate the private sector, e-commerce and smart cities using the internet of things. Thirty years ago, just 32 per cent of the market value of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies was based on intangible assets, mainly intellectual property. Today, that figure stands at 80 per cent and protecting those assets from cyber-crime is of vital importance.
While cyber-criminals look to make money off of phishing scams, their interests have also extended to infiltrating proprietary industrial designs, resource management and information affecting acquisitions. The fact that some countries see this type of crime as a normal way to gain access to foreign business information is often poorly understood by Canadian businesses accustomed to functioning under much higher ethical standards.
The e-commerce realm faces its own cyber-threats including those affecting privacy, data sovereignty, location of data centres, data security and legislation. E-commerce merchants must protect themselves by ensuring the security of their clients’ computers, communication channels, web servers and data encryption. It sounds daunting, but it shouldn’t be. Merchants can take steps such as doing risk assessments, developing security policies, establishing a single point of security oversight, instituting authentication processes using biometrics, auditing security and maintaining an emergency reporting system.
Government can assist with cyber-security in Canada’s private sector through awareness campaigns, rewarding businesses for best practices, providing tax credits to offset the cost of security measures, and offering preferential lending and insurance deals from government institutions.
The federal government’s 2015 Digital Privacy Act was a good first step, but there is much territory left to be covered. The act offers little assistance in making the leap from a pre-internet governmental model of doing business with the private sector. Nor does it acknowledge the full costs organizations must face when contemplating improving their cyber-security.
The growth of smart cities, connected to the internet of things, creates new susceptibilities to cyber-crime. By 2021, there will be approximately 28 billion internet-connected devices globally and 16 billion of those will be related to the internet of things. However, smart cities appear to be low on the list of cyber-security priorities at all levels of government. There is a lack of local guidance and commitment, an absence of funding programs and tax incentives for risk-sharing arrangements, and nothing in the way of a federally initiated smart-cities strategy.
The key to keeping ahead of the cyber-criminals is to recalibrate our understanding of the threats accompanying the technology. New ideas, new economic policies, new safeguards, new regulations and new ways of doing business will all help to keep Canada safe in the burgeoning knowledge economy.
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