Cyber Security main obstacle for Canadian companies: study

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At a time when the issue of privacy is at the heart of the news, a new study suggests that cybersecurity is the main obstacle to the online growth of many companies.

This is reflected in a study released Tuesday by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) on the benefits of the online presence on the growth of companies outside their market.

According to the survey, 32 percent of respondents reported that the "main challenge" of online growth was the ability to protect and secure data on the web.

"Often, these are companies that do not have an internal cybersecurity department but outsource this to external consultants," said Pierre Cleroux, Vice President, Research and Chief Economist at BDC. "They are small and medium-sized enterprises. They feel a bit vulnerable."

Since Desjardins Group disclosed on June 20 that the personal information of 2.9 million of its members had been stolen, more and more consumers are worried about the protection of their personal data. In the case of the co-op, the leak was attributable to an ex-employee in-house rather than a cyberattack.

However, in recent years, external breaches have also affected Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Equifax, and Air Canada.

According to Cleroux, these concerns about cybersecurity may force some companies to slow down their growth or instead opt for giant platforms like Amazon to sell their products.

Security breaches go beyond reputational risks, in his opinion.

"I cannot give you names, but I've already seen customers shut down for two weeks because of a computer attack from outside," Cleroux said. "You can imagine the costs that entails."

20% of companies attacked

According to a survey released last fall by Statistics Canada, more than one in five Canadian businesses were affected by a cyberattack in 2017, as companies across the country were spending a total of $ 14 billion on cybersecurity.

If people are talking more about the protection of personal information, the intentions do not always translate into steps, according to Jean-Philippe Decarie-Mathieu, head of cybersecurity at Commissionaires du Quebec, a Montreal-based company specializing in online security.

"It's important to have competent people inhouse," he explained. "For SMEs, it is often difficult to have a full-time cybersecurity specialist. There is also a shortage of staff in the community. We are all in the same boat."

BDC probe respondents also cited some laws, such as the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, as an obstacle. In force for more than a year, it requires companies to notify their European customers to provide their consent to the use of their data.

Among other things, BDC's probe points out that too many companies are missing business opportunities due to a lack of digital presence, recalling that in 2017, according to Statistics Canada, near the half of the SMEs - 46.4 percent - did not have a website.

According to BDC, more than one in three respondents who have expanded online said they had higher revenue growth compared to 20 percent for other companies.

The study was based in part on a survey that took place between February 12 and 22 with 1,485 Canadian executives whose businesses do business outside the country or province in which they are located.