Russia, China ‘cyber threats’ target Canada ― Report

Elias Hubbard
November 21, 2020

"State-sponsored cyber activity is generally the most sophisticated threat", the country's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) intelligence agency said in its second national cyber threat assessment.

COVID-19 lures often attempt to imitate the branding and style of legitimate institutions, such as worldwide organizations and public health agencies, the centre said.

Another campaign impersonated the Public Health Agency of Canada's chief public health officer to deliver malware through a fake COVID-19 update that appeared official and legitimate.

Scott Jones, the head of the CSE's Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, said the interconnected electrical infrastructure of North America is "one of the largest machines in the world".

The report, the centre's latest look at the overall cyberthreat landscape, says the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the extent to which the Canadian economy is reliant upon digital infrastructure.

"Foreign state-sponsored cyber programs are probing our critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities".

It further warned that the pandemic has led to a jump in teleworking and online activity in general for Canadians, a trend that will continue and could expose people to an evolving array of cyber threats. He cited the decision the agency took in July to allege alongside the United Kingdom that Russian Federation tried to steal information and intellectual property from researchers working on a COVID-19 vaccine.

The report said they are also expected to target intellectual property related to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in order to boost their own response to the contagion.

Wednesday's report suggested that foreign interference and influence campaigns are the "new normal", and will persist even outside an election period to try and shape Canadian opinion on key issues.

"Disinformation campaigns have also sought to discredit and criticize Canadian politicians to damage their reputations".

"We judge that it is very unlikely, however, that cyberthreat actors will intentionally seek to disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure and cause major damage or loss of life in the absence of worldwide hostilities".

But they "may target critical Canadian organizations to. pre-position for future activities, or as a form of intimidation", it added.

"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 agency's 2020 threat assessment says.

It said they will nearly certainly continue to be exposed to email scams and ransomware attacks - in which hackers lock an individual or organization out of their device or network and demand payment to decrypt the files - over the next two years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many health-sector organizations have experienced ransomware attacks, including hospitals and health-care centres in the Czech Republic, the U.S., Spain, and Germany, it noted.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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