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Scott Jones, President of the Canadian Center for Cybersecurity and Vice President of Information Technology Security (CSE) takes a look during an announcement of the National Cybersecurity Strategy at Parliament House, in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Canadian Press / Justin Tang
Canada’s top cybersecurity agency has ranked state-sponsored cyber activity in China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as representing the « greatest strategic threats » to Canada’s critical infrastructure, intellectual property, and political events such as elections..
In its 2020 National Cyber Threat Assessment, the Canadian Center for Cybersecurity within the Communications Security Corporation warned that state-sponsored cyber activity is the most advanced and that actors are “very likely” to attempt to develop capabilities to disrupt critical systems; It will « almost certainly » continue to conduct commercial espionage against Canadian governments, companies and organizations; And the ongoing online foreign influence campaigns aiming to change the rhetoric about current events divide Canadians.
The most sophisticated capabilities belong to state-sponsored cyber threat actors driven by economic, ideological and geopolitical goals.. Their activities include cyber espionage, intellectual property theft, online influence operations, and disruptive cyber attacks, « as stated in the report..
« We estimate that it is almost certain that state-sponsored programs in China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest state-sponsored cyber threats to Canadian individuals and organizations.. However, many other countries are rapidly developing their own electronic programs, taking advantage of the various legal and illegal markets to purchase electronic products and services.. .
National Defense Minister Harjit Sagan said in the introduction to the report that the report was a reminder that Canada cannot let its guard down. .
« Cyber programs sponsored by a foreign country scan our critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities. Foreign efforts to influence public discourse through social media have become the « new normal ». Sagan wrote: « More than that, the Internet is at a crossroads, as countries such as China and Russia are pushing to change the way they are governed, turning it into a tool for monitoring, surveillance and control of the state. ». .
The report is an update to the 2018 release, providing predictions of the threat environment through 2022. The agency warns that the threat assessment does not include a comprehensive list of activities, but relies on classified and unclassified sources available as of October. . 20.
« When we call on actors, specifically in sectors, we see that the sector responds very quickly to the threat, » Scott Jones, president of the Canadian Center for Cybersecurity, said during a conference call discussing the new report.. . He cited the decision taken by the agency in July to claim alongside the United Kingdom that Russia had attempted to steal information and intellectual property from researchers working on the COVID-19 vaccine..
The 2020 threat assessment warns of cyber actors targeting organizations responsible for essential services such as facilities and healthcare by going after their Industrial Control Systems (ICS).
As more and more aspects of the infrastructure are connected to the Internet, the risk of software exposure to cyber attacks increases.
One of the specific areas covered in the report is the threat to Canada’s power grid, as expected government agencies try to develop the capabilities necessary to disrupt electricity supplies in Canada..
A recent example of countries engaging in this type of behavior is when Russian-linked actors « investigate power utility grids in the United States. ». s. And Canada « in 2019. Also, the report cites U. s. Facility personnel being targeted by China; Iranian hacker groups target the control system infrastructure of competing countries like Israel, and North Korean malware has been found in the IT networks of Indian power plants..
« We estimate that cybercriminals will likely increase their targeting of ICS in the next two years in an effort to put increased pressure on critical infrastructure and heavy industry victims to agree to ransom demands immediately, » the report reads.
While the report says that the reality of such an attack is « extremely unlikely », it could cause major damage and disruptions to large areas of the country..
“What you can see is transmission lines are closed, you can see them open circuit breakers – which means that electricity simply won’t flow into our homes, to our businesses, to other parts of Canada’s critical infrastructure. . . . We want to advance in this direction and make sure we get ahead of it before you see those impacts occur in critical infrastructure that can affect large numbers of people at the same time, « Jones said..
“We are not trying to scare people, we are definitely not trying to scare people out of the grid by building a cabin in the woods, etc.. . We are here to say, « Let’s deal with these matters now while they are still on paper, while they are still a threat that we write » before it becomes a real threat in the future, « he said, adding that work is underway to raise awareness in the energy sector about these threats.
The threat assessment of the online hub also indicates that “a number of countries” have deployed online influence campaigns “as part of their day-to-day business” in an effort to change civic discourse, policymakers ‘decisions, and politicians’ reputations..
“They are trying to delegitimize the concept of democracy and other values such as human rights and freedom . . . They are also trying to exacerbate the existing differences in democratic societies on various divisive social, political and economic issues, « according to the report.
While these efforts usually increase around elections, the agency says it sees campaigns have expanded since 2018 targeting popular stories and popular political issues..
“It happens every day now. This is something that is just misuse or misleading information on the Internet. And this is where we say, « Look, we need to start turning to reliable sources, » Jones said in an interview on CTV’s Power Play..
In Canada, this included Russian and Iranian efforts to influence minds related to terrorism and the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting, construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline, and domestic policies on immigration and refugees, and climate change.. .
More recently, attempts have been seen to influence Canadians regarding COVID-19 and the government’s responses to the pandemic.
Going forward, the report notes that Canada’s position on “highly tense geopolitical issues” could increase the threat.
The report also states that in relation to other countries, Canadians are low-priority targets for foreign influence online, but because “our media ecosystem is closely intertwined with that of the United States and other allies,” when our neighbors are targeted, Canadians become exposed to the influence of the Internet..
Jones said Canada is sharing information about what it sees when Canadians or local institutions are busy with online intervention efforts.
In addition to looking at the threat of a foreign country representative, the report highlights escalating online threats to Canadians and the national institutions represented by fraudsters and other nefarious actors, in the face of COVID-19 which exploits the fears and anxieties felt by many.. People suffering during the pandemic, plus the increasing use of online tools to work from home and stay in touch with others.
The CSE stated that cybercrime remains the biggest direct threat to Canadians and Canadian organizations, and many of them are not doing enough to protect their passwords and software and increase the cadre of digital devices from hacking or other attacks.. .
Jones said, « Cybersecurity is a team sport, and as any hockey coach will tell you, in order to mount an effective defense, you need to know what you’re up against. ». « .
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