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October 16, 2023

Cyber Security Awareness Month 2023: A newcomer’s guide to online

This guide provides a step-by-step journey into understanding, recognizing, and safeguarding against potential cyber threats.

With October being Canada’s Cyber Security Awareness Month (#CyberMonth2023), Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSE) is looking to reinforce the importance of cyber security.

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This is an especially important topic for newcomers to Canada, as it is particularly vital that Canada’s more vulnerable populations – which include those who spend significant time online as they immigrate to Canada – become aware of the importance of cyber security while learning about specific precautions they can take to protect themselves.

About Cyber Security Awareness Month 2023

In 2023, the theme for Cyber Security Awareness Month is “Step up your Cyber fitness.”

As noted by CSE in a recent news release, this theme is all about learning “the ability to identify, react and respond to online threats by taking small and easy steps.”

Speaking to the importance of Cyber Security Awareness Month, Bill Blair, Canada’s National Defence Minister, said this “is a chance to show Canadians how easy it can be to implement effective cyber security measures in their everyday lives, [important because] cyber security … affects everyone and makes Canada’s digital spaces safer.”

More: Extra Cyber Security Awareness Month 2023 content from the Government of Canada

Five Weeks of Learning About Cyber Safety

The following themes will encompass different lessons focused on “educating Canadians about cyber security best practices and how to maintain them throughout the year”:

Week 1: Warmup

The first week of Cyber Month 2023 is dedicated to learning basic skills such as understanding “common cyber threats, [learning about] tools to keep you safe online [and taking] simple steps to practice getting cyber safe.” The initial stages of cyber safety involve such things as understanding key terms like phishing – a type of scam commonly committed against newcomers “where a hacker poses as a legitimate business or organization … to fool the victim into [providing] sensitive personal information or inducing them to click a link or attachment that ends up delivering” a virus.

Week 2: Account Workout

Week two is focused on protecting your online accounts by understanding how to “use strong and unique passwords/passphrases, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) and avoid phishing (and social engineering) scams.” The value of a strong password is immeasurable when it comes to online privacy. Strong account protection is key to safeguarding sensitive information such as bank account details and ensuring that personal data does not end up in the wrong hands.

Week 3: Learning Self-Defence

In week three, the focus of #CyberMonth2023 is device protection. This can be accomplished through “[the use of a] virtual private network (VPN), by installing anti-virus software and by [taking steps to secure] your home Wi-Fi.”

VPNs, for example, protect your online identity by blocking unwanted eyes from potentially “spying on you as you navigate the web.” These are just one tool of many that newcomers to Canada can use to protect themselves from hackers and other cyber security threats.

Week 4: Maintaining Muscle

Week four teaches Canadians about automating cyber security through such tools as a password manager, automatic device updates and data backups. Newcomers to Canada, as well as all Canadians, can benefit from these practices – all of which help add an extra layer of security to the personal information stored on your computer, cellphone and other devices.

Week 5: Strength in Numbers

In the final week of Cyber Month 2023, Canadians will learn to share the advice they learned with more vulnerable friends and family, including older adults and young children. To accomplish this, Canadian newcomers can share the Get Cyber Safe campaign with their loved ones and also leverage the resources included below.

Cyber Safety Tips and Resources for Newcomers to Canada

Specifically for newcomers to Canada, the following list outlines several practical tips that can be actioned to make sure you stay cyber safe.

1. Understanding the difference between legitimate IRCC communications and scams

In today’s online world, newcomers to Canada can easily get caught by seemingly legitimate digital communications from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Instead, however, these communications can easily be coming from sophisticated online scammers.

To guard against this, ensure you only act on communications that you asked for/solicited. Should you ever receive an email or other communication you did not ask for (unsolicited), it is safer to assume that any link or information contained within the communication is a scam and untrustworthy.

2. Recognizing fake immigration websites compared to sources of real and trustworthy information

True government sources will typically include content in both English and French, Canada’s two official languages. Further, the URLs for these online pages will include “Canada.ca” or end with “gc.ca”. Websites that appear to be from the Government of Canada but omit these features should not be trusted.

3. Verifying service providers and avoiding other immigration fraud

Verified immigration service providers will all have a website to accompany their services. However, this is also true of illegitimate actors who want to portray themselves as real/certified service providers.

To protect Canadian newcomers, official Canadian registries and directories exist online to verify the legitimacy of those who are authorized to represent immigrants and provide immigration advice. For instance, Canadian immigration lawyers and notaries must all be registered with the provincial or territorial law society in the region they practice.

Government Cyber Security Resources

For more tips and resources to ensure newcomers stay cyber-safe, IRCC provides this Protect Yourself from Immigration Fraud webpage, which outlines several different types of immigration fraud and provides learning materials as well as content related to next steps regarding what to do if you are a victim of fraud.

Specific to Cyber Month 2023, the Government of Canada also provides this Resources page as part of this year’s Get Cyber Safe campaign.

Staying Cyber Safe in 2023 and Beyond

Understanding and practicing cyber security best practices can make a big difference in the lives of all Canadian newcomers, as these skills are fundamental to the safety and well-being of you and your family. From ensuring you safeguard your money to keeping your private details safe and away from the wrong hands, cyber security is a big part of living a happy and fulfilling life in Canada.

To get involved with Cyber Security Awareness Month and learn more about keeping you and your family safe, both this year and beyond, engage with the hashtag #CyberMonth2023 online and practice continued vigilance both on your journey to Canada and as you establish your new life here.

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