In a recent interview with CBC News, the head of Canada's cyber security agency warned that attacks launched by online criminals against the Canadian government are growing increasingly sophisticated.
Scott Jones, head of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, told CBC News, “There are the more organized [attacks] that see the government as a target and they're looking for financial gain, and those would be more sophisticated. They would tend to be looking for access to be able to do reconnaissance-type things."
The CSE says it sees “hundreds of thousands” of events each day across the government. While the CSE doesn’t like to give details on their security infrastructure, they did say they are using a “host-based sensor program” on over half a million government computers. The program helps detect malware and phishing programs and stop it before it becomes a problem. The program also helps “Canadian gatekeepers detect new methods being employed by those looking to infiltrate government technology — and giving them a chance to warn others,” said Jones. The success of this program won over the CSE's British counterpart, the National Cyber Security Centre, and they have partnered to implement a version of the host-based system on U.K. government systems.
If that isn’t enough, the CSE has also recently reported that State-Sponsored threat actors are “trying to shore up their cyber capabilities to attack Canada's critical infrastructure — such as the electricity supply — to intimidate or to prepare for future online assaults, a new intelligence assessment warns.” Says the CSE in their report: "We judge that state-sponsored actors are very likely attempting to develop the additional cyber capabilities required to disrupt the supply of electricity in Canada."
The CSE’s report also mentioned the threat of ransomware on Canadian governmental organizations and enterprises: "We judge that ransomware directed against Canada will almost certainly continue to target large enterprises and critical infrastructure providers. These entities cannot tolerate sustained disruptions and are willing to pay up to millions of dollars to quickly restore their operations," says the report.
So, what does this mean for the average citizen? While the CSE told the CBC that it doesn’t want to alarm Canadians, the fact is, attacks on the government could have many negative consequences for citizens. While the CSE seems confident in its approach to securing government computers and operations, it is a literal “arms race” of whose technology will prevail. And it is not just the government’s technology at risk: whether state-sponsored or organized crime, these threat actors will target businesses like yours in an effort to fund their organizations. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says that Canadians lost over $43 million to cyber crime last year.
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