It probably comes as no surprise to those in business, but almost 70 percent of Canadian defence and aerospace companies have experienced some sort of cyber attack within the previous 12 months, according to a study by the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA).

Last fall at SecureTech in Ottawa, ICSPA announced an anonymous survey of a cross-section of industry, including critical infrastructure, utilities and defence firms, to understand the nature and impact of cyber attacks that often go unreported. The report surveyed 520 small, medium and large Canadian companies in six sectors.

The findings show that not only have more than two-thirds experienced an attack, a quarter have suffered financial loss and damage to their reputation as a result. Not surprising, the types and frequency of attack varied depending on the nature and size of the business – larger companies with higher revenues were targeted most often.

Malware and virus attacks were the most prevalent forms of intrusion though many also experienced phishing, spear phishing and social engineering.

Of note, the survey found considerable gaps in preparedness against cyber crime. Many (64%) claimed that senior management takes cyber attack seriously, but larger businesses were somewhat better prepared than medium and small ones to deal with the outcome.

“With our small sample of businesses in Canada we found just the tip of the iceberg,” said Ken Taylor, ICSPA North American president. “But what we found still makes a compelling case that the threat is real and immediate. Our actions must therefore be equally concrete and urgent. We need to break down the silos and collaborate to find ways to protect ourselves. For my part, I will be speaking with businesses, governments, individuals and communities to get the collaboration started as soon as we can.”

Canada was the first such study for ICSPA, which will now be conducting similar surveys in other countries. “Cyber crime knows no borders and acknowledging the extent of the threat is a key prerequisite to taking action to deal with it,” said John Lyons, ICSPAs chief executive.

The survey was supported by a group of Canadian businesses, including Above Security, BlackBerry, CGI Group, Lockheed Martin and McAfee.