Over a one-year period, 69 per cent of Canadian businesses said they experienced some type of cyber attack, ranging from malware and computer viruses to phishing and "social engineering" attacks, a new survey has found.

The study was carried out by the U.K.-based International Cyber Security Protection Alliance and released Wednesday.

Dubbed the Study of the Impact of Cyber Crime on Businesses in Canada, the survey followed 520 small, medium and large Canadian businesses over the course of one year and tracked how their bottom line was affected by cyber crime.

"About a quarter (26 per cent) of those interviewed say that attacks had a considerable impact on their business both in terms of financial loss and reputational damage with financial fraud being the biggest threat," the report states.

Of businesses that said they were affected by cyber crime, the average financial loss was approximately $14,844, for a total of $5,328,916 in average losses across all the businesses

Of those losses, 36 per were due to financial fraud; incidents involving the theft of company information was a distant second, accounting for 16 per cent of losses.

Malware and virus attacks accounted for the third highest cost, while sabotage of data and networks was fourth.

"Total cost due to cyber crime attacks increases with revenues: on average, an incident costs large organizations $1,181, compared to $991 in medium, and $741 in small ones," the report stated.

And while not all businesses reported that cyber crime had a "considerable" impact on their business, 69 per cent said they experienced some kind of attack, including:

  • Malware and virus attacks
  • Phishing
  • Social engineering (tricking users into clicking on a link or downloading malware)
  • Unauthorized use of corporate websites
  • Misuse of social networks
  • Telecommunications fraud

To deal with those threats, 44 per cent of the businesses surveyed said they contacted an external agency for help -- typically a private agency as opposed to a government agency. Only 11 per cent of the affected organizations said they approached the RCMP or another government agency, suggesting a need for greater awareness and information about the services offered by the government, the survey said.

“The survey demonstrates that across business communities, there is a general lack of strategy, procedures and trained personnel to combat cyber crime,” states the summary of the survey. “In addition, there is a need for improved communications and education as to the threats, their effect and what actions to take.”

The survey was carried out by phone, polling businesses from the following sectors:

  • Financial services
  • Airlines, shipping or transportation
  • Telecommunications technology
  • Utilities and infrastructure
  • Aerospace and Defense
  • Retail

Of the 520 businesses involved, 400 were surveyed in English while 120 were surveyed in French. The survey was sponsored by Blackberry, McAfee, Lockheed Martin and Above Security.