Ontario and British Columbia cities dominate a new Symantec Corp.-sponsored report which lists the municipalities most at risk of cyber attacks and potential malware infections. But at least one security analyst says business and consumers residing in the cities that top the vulnerability chart shouldn’t be too concerned.


The report, compiled via data from Portland, Ore.-based research firm Sperling’s BestPlaces and Symantec’s Security Response group, named Burlington, Ont., residents as the most targeted in Canada when it comes to cyber crime activity. Rounding out the top five were Port Coquitlam, B.C., Langley, B.C., Vancouver, B.C., and Calgary, Alta.


The rankings took several factors into consideration, including the number of cyber crimes per capita and the frequency of online reports of cyber criminal activity. The number of Wi-Fi hotspots, broadband availability, and consumer expenditures on computer hardware and software also impacted the results.


“The biggest surprise was that it was the really affluent bedroom communities that were the most at risk,” said Lynn Hargrove, director of consumer solutions at Symantec. “In surveys like this you expect to see Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal (at the top). But on a per capita basis, it was really people in affluent suburbs (most at risk).”


She added that areas with widespread access to Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connectivity also contain residents that often use the Web for online banking and shopping. These residents need to be more aware, at home and at work, of their security practices, Hargrove said.


The report analyzed data from the 50 largest cities in Canada, according to population numbers defined by Statistics Canada. The rest of the top 10 included Oakville, Markham, Toronto and Kitchener in Ontario, and Kelowna, B.C.


James Quin, lead analyst covering security for London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said the riskiest cities list is not very valuable because of the methodology used to collect the data. While examining cyber crimes per capita is extremely useful, Quin said, using Wi-Fi access or computer equipment purchases in the metrics is quite silly.


“That’s like saying that Los Angeles is the most dangerous city to drive in because it has the most highways and cars,” he said.


Ironically, he added, residents in the cities atop this year’s Symantec list might actually spend more money on anti-virus software as a result and keep themselves high on the list because of the flawed methodology.


Quin, who resides in Burlington, said he would like to see the data on the number of cyber attacks per capita. This data, he said, would actually be indicative of the security or insecurity measurements of a city’s various ISPs.

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