Feds roll out new cybersecurity strategy to protect from online attacks, crime
OTTAWA — The federal government unveiled its plan to bolster Canada’s defences against nefarious online attacks and crime Tuesday, even as it acknowledged a shortage of skilled cyber-warriors to meet the country’s needs.
Backstopped by more than $500 million in new funding over the next five years, Ottawa’s newly released cybersecurity strategy lays out a range of initiatives to help Canadians, business and the government better protect against cyberthreats.
The strategy was the result of nearly two years of consultations with industry, academics and other experts, and updates the first such plan released by the Harper Conservatives in 2010.
It comes as the internet and digital technology play an increasingly important role in every aspect of life, making many functions easier and leading to new economic opportunities — but also opening the country and Canadians up to new risks.
And those risks appear to be increasing: The RCMP says that police services across the country received 24,000 reports of cybercrimes in 2016, which represented a 58 per cent increase over the previous two years.
There are also growing concerns about the threat posed by foreign states, terrorist groups and others who may try to target the country’s electricity grids, banking services, hospitals and election systems.
The new cybersecurity strategy does three things, starting with an increased emphasis on detecting, deterring and prosecuting cybercrime, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said at a news conference on Parliament Hill.
“We must substantially strengthen Canada’s cybersecurity capabilities to better protect ourselves and our systems against evolving cyberthreats,” he said, “while also enlarging our capacity to combat cybercrime and prosecute offenders.”
To that end, the RCMP will add new cyber-investigators and become the main focal point for police across the country to report illegal activity online. It will also liaise with foreign partners to identify potential threats and crack down on criminal networks.
The strategy also brings the various cybersecurity efforts underway in different federal departments under a new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Goodale said, which will be housed at the Communications Security Establishment and open in the fall.
And it will attempt to help the private sector, especially small businesses, which officials say were the victims of 71 per cent of data breaches, better protect themselves, including through a voluntary certification program.
“They comprise a huge chunk of the Canadian economy,” Goodale said of small businesses.
“And they are as interconnected as the rest of us to their suppliers upstream and to their customers downstream, so if they have a cyber problem, that whole network could be infected.”