Espionage and cyberattacks threaten Canada’s pandemic recovery, PM warned

Internal government briefing notes warn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that economic-driven national security threats — from espionage to cyberattacks — pose “significant risks” to post-pandemic recovery, long-term prosperity term and Canada’s competitiveness.

The notes, obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, indicate that Canada’s ability to recover from COVID-19 and its future economic growth lie in the development of legislative regimes and updated regulations, new tools, technologies and business models.

The stark assessment is included in documents prepared for Trudeau immediately after the Liberals’ re-election victory last September and now released under the access law.

The Trudeau government signaled early last year that it was continuing its efforts to counter economic threats to national security, such as the theft of valuable intellectual property and damage to critical energy and information networks. .

Internal memos point to foreign investment and global trade as key drivers of the Canadian economy and those of its allies.

Given Canada’s population, geography, highly skilled workforce, world-class scientific and academic institutions, and advanced economy, access to international markets and capital is essential to economic growth and recovery, the notes add.

“Ensuring that Canada has a modern and comprehensive framework to counter efforts by hostile actors to exploit the Canadian economy is essential to ensuring Canada’s long-term economic prosperity and national security, including rebuilding after COVID-19.

Hostile tactics range from foreign direct investment in sensitive sectors, including critical infrastructure and emerging technologies, to theft of cutting-edge research, according to the briefing notes.

Theft can occur through hacking into corporate networks or transferring sensitive technology with military and intelligence applications.

National security concerns extend to the procurement of goods and services by all levels of government, the notes warn. For example, procurement activities can provide adversaries with access to sensitive sites or data, and products or services purchased for critical infrastructure can open the door to espionage and disruption.

Security threats pose major risks to pandemic recovery, the prime minister’s internal memos warn. #CDNPoli

Canadian academic and research institutions are targeted by hostile states that take advantage of their nationals, including visiting students and professors, as well as foreign talent recruitment programs and research partnerships to gain access to knowledge and to sensitive research, add the briefing notes.

National security agencies have worked hard in recent years to educate potential target organizations and provide advice to mitigate these threats.

The government has also released national security guidelines for research partnerships, and the Investment Canada Act national security review guidelines have been updated to increase transparency on the type of investments that could give rise to a security review.

Public Safety Canada is reviewing “gaps in legislation, regulation and governance,” the notes say.

The federal department is also completing a review of Canada’s cybersecurity strategy.

The committee of MPs and senators that oversees federal security policy recently highlighted blind spots in Canada’s cyber defenses that could leave many agencies vulnerable to state-sponsored hackers from China and Russia.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians said that while nation states are the most developed threats, any actor with malicious intent and sophisticated capabilities puts government data and the integrity of its infrastructure at risk. electronic.

Notes prepared for the Prime Minister warn that the cyber threat landscape is changing rapidly, often outpacing the ability of governments to adjust regulatory and policy frameworks.

As a result, governments are “increasingly challenged” to secure their networks and information holdings, deal with the most pressing threats, and help victims of cyber incidents.

Cybersecurity “can no longer be considered the sole responsibility of governments,” the notes warn.

Canada, in consultation with like-minded partners, will need to continue to emphasize the need for international standards and the prevention of safe havens where cybercriminals “can operate without consequence.”

“Internet-facilitated crime is the most significant risk to economic recovery because it can affect everyone, from individuals to small and large businesses, to municipalities and critical infrastructure systems.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 26, 2022.

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