Cybersecurity training, research centre opens at University of Calgary

Click to play video: 'Calgary cybersecurity centre hopes to stop criminals in their tracks'
Calgary cybersecurity centre hopes to stop criminals in their tracks
A new cybersecurity centre has officially opened up in Calgary, hoping to help the city, province and country track hackers and stop them in their tracks. Tomasia DaSilva explains how it works – Oct 10, 2023

A new centre designed to research and train to defend against cybercrimes has been opened at the University of Calgary.

Dubbed the Cyber Assessement, Training and Experimentation (CATE) Centre, it features a cyber range that can simulate digital environments, systems, threats and defences. It also brings together a range of industry experts and law enforcement for Alberta’s first cyber safety and research centre.

“The CATE Centre is a state-of-the-art facility undertaking novel research and development while training the next generation of cybersecurity and privacy experts that are critical to the safety of Albertans and to Alberta’s economy,” Dr. Ken Barker, U of C computer science professor and scientific director of the National Cybersecurity Consortium said in a statement.

The private-public partnership involves U.S. defence contractor Raytheon and Calgary-based Enfocom, a cyber range provider. Alberta Innovates and Prairies Economic Development Canada also provide funding for the CATE Centre.

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“If you think about traditional I.T. personnel, they might have done their training in the past. But cybersecurity advances so fast, especially with the hackers hacking away, and their skills need to be kept up,” said Enfocom CEO Herbert Fensury. “What we do differently would be it’s also an experiential training, meaning they get to use the lab to do hacking and all that stuff, with real ransomware and real viruses, to make sure they could detect and catch those things.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta Dental Service Corp. cyber security breach'
Alberta Dental Service Corp. cyber security breach

According to the Calgary Police Service, the number of reported cybercrime incidents are up 70 per cent since 2017. CPS has received 19 reports of ransomware attacks this year, but police said cybercrime that involves fraud are vastly underreported.

In ransomware attacks, criminals will encrypt files and demand a ransom in the form of cryptocurrency for the release of the decryption key. Criminals will often threaten the release of the stolen data to the public unless the ransom is paid.

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In August, the Alberta Dental Service Corporation said it had been hacked between May and July, with the hackers communicating they had encrypted the data and were holding it ransom in exchange for cryptocurrency.

Fewer than 7,300 seniors on the Quikcard program may have had their personal banking information leaked.

ADSC said it is reaching out directly to Albertans whose personal financial data was hacked and those people will be offered complimentary credit monitoring.

Approximately 1.47 million peoples’ names and dental program ID numbers were compromised.

Click to play video: 'Cyber Security Month reminders to protect your information'
Cyber Security Month reminders to protect your information

Calgary police said ransomware attacks can affect individuals and corporations of various sizes, and stressed the importance of having a response plan in the event of a cyber attack.

“Though these offences often happen in different cities and across international borders, these crimes have very real and severe impacts on local Calgarians,” said Staff Sgt. Graeme Smiley of the CPS Cyber/Forensics Unit.

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Police advise anyone who has been subject to a ransomware attack to immediately report it and seek alternatives to paying the ransom. To prevent attacks, companies should limit access to accounts to those who need access, have segregated and offline up-to-date backups, use multi-factor authentication, and educate employees about cyber safety, which includes not clicking on suspicious links or attachments.

Anyone who has suffered a financial loss from fraud or extortion is urged to call CPS at 403-266-1234. Fraudulent messages, emails or phone calls can be reported to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month in Canada.

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