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CIBC among top brands used in phishing attacks: security firm

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The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is one of the most commonly targeted brands used by cyberthieves in phishing attacks across North America, with a more than 600 per cent surge in fake email attempts in the third quarter, according to analysis by an email security firm.

Vade Secure’s research shows that during that period CIBC was the lone Canadian company among the top 25 brands used by cybercriminals trying to trick people into handing over their credentials and confidential data, according to the France-based company’s engine.

The Toronto-based bank was ranked 25th and used in an average of 5.3 new phishing links per day during the third quarter, an increase of more than 622 per cent from the previous quarter, the analysis showed.

The email security firm’s chief executive Adrien Gendre said each of these links, which typically mimic official webpages, can be sent to thousands of users.

Launch of Simplii could be a factor

It’s unclear what is behind the surge in phishing activity, but one factor could be CIBC’s launch of its Simplii Financial direct banking brand last year, Gendre said. When users are less familiar with what interactions to expect, they are easier to deceive with a fake email, he said.

“Every new service, it’s a good target for phishing … People will click more on it,” Gendre said.

Vade Secure, based in Lille, France, protects more than 500 million inboxes, and its conclusions were based on the phishing attacks detected by its artificial-intelligence powered platform.

CIBC said “cyber security is an evolving space that we monitor closely.”

“We have multiple layers of security in place and continuously invest to safeguard our clients,” spokesman Tom Wallis wrote in an emailed statement.

The email security firm’s analysis comes as Canadian banks continue ramp up their spending on technology, including cybersecurity defences, and months after BMO and Simplii said that thousands of customers may have had personal and financial data compromised.

Data breaches lead to waves of phishing, malware attacks

In May, BMO said hackers contacted the bank claiming to be in possession of the personal data of fewer than 50,000 customers, and that the attack originated outside of Canada. At the same time, Simplii also warned that “fraudsters” may have accessed certain personal and account information for about 40,000 clients.

A leak of user data is often followed by a wave of phishing attacks or a malware attack months later, Gendre said.

A few years ago, grammatical errors or language mistakes would easily signal that it was fraudulent, but now these fake webpages are often indistinguishable from the real thing, Gendre added.

The three top targets in North American phishing attacks during the third quarter were Microsoft, PayPal and Netflix, but other large Canadian banks were also among the 86 brands tracked by Vade Secure.

Bank of Montreal was in 33rd place with phishing activity up 317.5 per cent from the previous quarter, followed by Scotiabank in 47th place with activity up 53.1 per cent. Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank saw a drop in phishing activity, down 91 per cent and 57.6 per cent from the previous quarter, respectively, to put them in the 49th and 62nd spots.

However, during the second quarter, RBC was in the 21st spot with an 767.3 per cent increase in phishing links, according to Vade Secure.

Gendre said cyberthieves typically cycle through different targets, switching to a new one as users become aware of the fake links and their attacks become less efficient.

RBC’s vice-president of cyber operations and chief information officer Adam Evans said that as the bank increases its global footprint it becomes a bigger target for phishing attacks, but it has layers of security to protect against these kinds threats. The bank has also been increasing its cyber security budget and investing in technologies to mitigate this threat, he added.

“Organizations that have a global footprint are going to be targeted more often and probably more frequently over time,” he said.

BMO, Scotiabank and TD Bank did not respond to requests for comment.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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