Canada names China and Russia as predominant cybercrime threats; sees a danger to the facility provide

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A hooded man is holding a laptop while cyber code is projected onto him in this illustration image

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada on Wednesday identified government-sponsored programs in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as major threats to cybercrime for the first time, fearing foreign actors might attempt to cut power.

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) announced that the programs posed the greatest strategic threat to Canada.

“Government-sponsored cyber activities are generally the most advanced threat,” said CSE in its second national cyber threat assessment.

In the first study by CSE, published in 2018, foreign actors were mentioned without identifying them. In July, Canada, the UK and the US accused Russia-backed hackers of attempting to steal COVID-19 vaccine data.

China and Russia have repeatedly denied penetrating the critical infrastructure of other nations. Canada’s relations with China have deteriorated significantly in the past two years.

“We certainly have a long history of seeing behavior from China that was not what we expected,” Scott Jones, director of cybersecurity at CSE, told reporters.

Jones did not answer directly when asked why the four nations were named.

CSE said it was very unlikely that hackers would try to cause great damage or kill people without war.

But they “could appeal to critical Canadian organizations to … prepare for future activity or as a form of intimidation,” she added.

“Government-sponsored actors are very likely trying to develop the additional cyber skills required to disconnect electricity.”

In 2019, Russian Associated Actors studied U.S. and Canadian electricity suppliers.

CSE said the threat of potential hacks is serious as many people rely on digital services in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

CSE is considering whether China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd can deliver devices for next-generation 5G networks. The United States and other close allies have blocked Huawei, stating that its equipment could contain backdoors that allow spies to enter.

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