Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hackers 'Constantly Probing' Federal Computers: Canada's Electronic Spy Chief

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hackers 'Constantly Probing' Federal Computers: Canada's Electronic Spy Chief

Article excerpt

Hackers 'constantly probing' federal computers

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OTTAWA - Malicious hackers are "constantly probing" federal computer systems so they can break in and steal coveted information, says the head of Canada's electronic spy agency.

Communications Security Establishment Canada chief John Forster says the revelation this week that a Chinese state-sponsored player infiltrated the National Research Council's computer network shows Canada is not immune from such aggression.

China has vehemently denied involvement in the cyberattack, accusing Canada of making baseless accusations.

But Forster used the attack on the research council -- whose specialists study everything from aerospace technology to crop science -- to defend CSEC's role in protecting federal computers.

"These malicious actors are constantly probing Government of Canada systems and networks for weaknesses so that they infiltrate them and steal valuable information," Forster wrote in a letter to the editor of the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper.

"When we detect emails or other communications that contain malware or other threats, we block, collect and analyze them. And, we work with appropriate departments to take action to neutralize the threat."

The spy service takes strict measures to protect the privacy of Canadians in doing such work, Forster insisted.

CSEC employs mathematicians, codebreakers, linguists and software experts with the aim of both collecting foreign secrets and shielding Canada's confidences from prying eyes.

Leaked revelations from Edward Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contractor, have raised questions about CSEC's surveillance activities, which include monitoring foreign email and telephone communications for information of intelligence interest to Canada.

The intrusion at the National Research Council, and the government's public declaration of CSEC's role in detecting it, underscore the agency's defensive work in cyberspace.

CSEC says it cannot monitor global communications in the modern era of Internet-based traffic without sweeping up at least some Canadian information.

As a result, the defence minister specially authorizes CSEC's cyberdefence efforts. …

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