Canada’s cybersecurity strategy is so outdated, the last time it was revised was in 2010 when Conservative Vic Toews was public safety minister. Six years doesn’t seem like a long time for a policy to lay untouched, but in the world of espionage it’s an eternity.
“I would suggest that our cybersecurity strategy is somewhat anemic,” Stephanie Carvin, a former Government of Canada national security analyst, said. The assistant professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of National Affairs said she believes Canada’s strategy on the public safety department’s website lacks any teeth.
“The government has principles and it has a document that’s called the cybersecurity strategy, but it’s not clear to me that we actually do have a strategy that is behind it with any kind of meat.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale acknowledges the gaps in our system and has said he is committed to plugging them.
“We’re looking at the governance of our cyber security systems, we’re looking at the technology, we’re looking at the financing to see what’s necessary to make us stronger,” Goodale said.
When he was appointed minister, Goodale was mandated to lead a full review of infrastructure to protect Canadians from cyber-threats. Department officials say that consultation will be done in December.
There is no fixed timeline for the changes to be implemented, but Minister Goodale is looking to other nations for advice.
“Israel for example, is considered to be very good at this, as well as the United States and the Brits and others,” Goodale said.
There is a sense of urgency though, as experts warn nations like North Korea, China and Russia are ramping up cyberespionage operations.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has said Canada is “very concerned” over the potential for a Russian cyberattack.
Ottawa’s relations with the Kremlin continue to be chilly, as Canada continues to oppose Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict and its continued hostility in eastern Ukraine.
Still, former Canadian ambassador to Russia John Sloan believes Canada can avoid being a target by engaging with the Kremlin.
“Syria is an excellent example, where we tried to exclude Russia from the peace process in the beginning and that contributes to that sense of paranoia, this sense of encirclement,” said Sloan.
While Sloan thinks our cybersecurity should be improved, he doesn’t think Canada is a bigger target than our neighbour to the south.
“I don’t think Canada will be the big target, clearly we’re a small fish compared to the United States. I do think we do need to take whatever steps necessary to ensure our own cyber security from Russia, from the United States, from Nigerian hackers, from North Koreans or whomever.”