Friday, May 24, 2013

Few businesses appear ready to defend themselves from cybercrime, report finds

Few companies may be ready to handle an attack from criminals lurking in cyberspace, and fewer know about the government’s three-year-old cyber-security efforts, according to a national study.

The study’s authors concluded that results, while only a small snapshot of the millions of businesses big and small in Canada, point to gaps in how companies protect themselves from cybercrime, a finding that could be chalked up to little monetary damage to companies that fall victim to hackers.

The cost of cybercrime to those businesses that fell victim to an attack was low, on average about $14,000 per incident, according to the companies surveyed. Cybercrime victims also reported little effects on their business reputation, according to the study from the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance, a non-profit group based in the U.K.

Experts suggest that financial-effect figures may have to rise dramatically before small- and medium-sized businesses beef up their IT defences, since few appear ready to defend themselves from attackers.

The study released Wednesday found that of the businesses surveyed, about 70 per cent had no procedure in place to deal with a successful hack and only 22 per cent actually looked to identify where they were most vulnerable.

“We don’t have the right alerts and alarms … to tell us what’s wrong,” said Ken Taylor, the group’s North American president.

There was even less awareness of the government’s cyber-security strategy, with about seven per cent of respondents aware of the document that was released in 2010, and about 12 per cent aware of the government’s cybercrime prevention campaigns.

Companies were also three times more likely to turn to a private company than to the government for cybercrime help.

According to the survey, businesses appear to want the government to follow the strategy already being followed: Build awareness of the threats in cyberspace, but leave it to businesses to protect themselves.

However, with no benchmark for what levels of security companies should employ, preparedness is “all over the map,” Taylor said. Government and businesses, he said, need to define what should be done to secure private and public systems.

“Our country has done what other countries in the G20 have done, but that (strategy) is the first stage,” Taylor said in an interview. “There has to be a metric, a benchmark. … This is a shared responsibility.”

Of the 520 businesses surveyed in the national study, 69 per cent reported some kind of digital attack against them in the previous 12 months, with one-quarter saying the attack had “considerable” effects on their business. In total, companies surveyed reported a total of 5,866 attacks against them over the previous 12 months.

The majority of respondents believed senior managers treat cybercrime incidents seriously, but that finding may be a result of reporting bias because the people answering questions were senior managers themselves.

As well, the study found that most companies reported that less than one-fifth of cyber-attacks caused any reputational damage.

The telephone survey of 520 companies across Canada touched on companies in six industries — financial services, airlines and shipping, telecommunications, critical infrastructure, aerospace and defence, and retail — and companies with revenues from under $1 million up to more than $100 million.

The survey was conducted between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, 2012, and is accurate to within 4.38 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Oliver to defend oil sands during visit to Europe

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is in Europe this week to fight proposed legislation he says discriminates against the oil sands and could damage the reputation of Canadian energy products around the world.

The European Union’s controversial “fuel quality directive” requires a 6% reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of vehicle fuels by 2020. Intensity levels are calculated based on the entire life cycle of the fuel, meaning emissions from the extraction, processing and distribution of the product are included in the final number.

Under the EU formula, oil sands “natural bitumen feedstock” is assigned a greenhouse gas value 22% higher than conventional crude oils. Oliver — who will be making the federal government’s case in Paris, Brussels, and London this week — said that figure is arbitrary and unscientific.

“We have no problem at all — in fact, we support — a policy that has as its objective the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of hydrocarbons for transportation. However, we think it has to be fair and effective, and the directive as it is currently drafted is fundamentally flawed,” Oliver told the Calgary Herald on Sunday.

The European Council — the EU body that represents individual countries — was originally set to vote on the directive in June 2012. But after intense lobbying by Canada as well as the European oil industry, it delayed the decision to conduct an impact assessment first.

A decision is now expected sometime this year, possibly as late as fall.

While Canada does not currently export oil to Europe, Oliver said he’s afraid of the message that will be sent if Europe’s leaders essentially declare oil sands product to be “dirty” oil.

“What we don’t want is to see our oil stigmatized and potentially hurt our other markets,” he said. “What we don’t want is to somehow see our oil labelled in a negative way.”

Oliver said Canada is being unfairly targeted in part because it is transparent about its greenhouse gas emissions. He said some other oil-producing nations that don’t have strong regulatory and oversight systems are simply assigned an “average” value under the EU formula.

He also said the EU formula appears to go easy on countries that are major oil suppliers for Europe by allowing all types of crude oil — including heavy crudes that Oliver said have similar emissions to oil sands crudes — to be bundled into one “conventional crude” category.

But while Oliver hopes his trip will convince European business and government leaders of the legislation’s flaws, environmental think-tank the Pembina Institute said the fuel quality directive’s science is correct.

A Pembina Institute paper on the topic published last year states that on average, oil sands production produce significantly higher emissions than conventional crude oils.

“The life cycle GHG emissions intensity of oil sands ranges from around 12 to 40% higher than the average intensity of conventional fuels used by Europeans,” the paper’s authors write. “Given this clear distinction, the treatment of ‘natural bitumen’ as a separate feedstock is well justified.”

The Alberta government has also taken up the fight in defence of the oil sands. Alberta’s International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas and Environment Minister Diana McQueen were in Europe at the end of January to talk about the issue, and Alberta’s U.K. trade office manager will be in Brussels this week to get an update on the EU fuel quality directive.

“Every opportunity we get we’re certainly articulating an Alberta perspective and why we see compelling reasons that the fuel quality directive requires modification to properly position an issue that on principle we support — around lowering the carbon footprint and the like,” Dallas said. “It’s just the fact that it positions itself to unfairly treat oil sands product or bitumen. We’ve had some good conversations in Europe and we continue to do that.”