Canada joins international partners in addressing cyber security threats to civil society

Report shows certain governments are predominantly responsible for state-sponsored cyber threats

Canada joins international partners in addressing cyber security threats to civil society

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, a division of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), has joined forces with international security partners to issue a warning about the increasing risks posed by state-sponsored cyber threats.

This advisory is co-authored by agencies from Canada, the United States, Estonia, Japan, Finland, and the United Kingdom. The report identifies high-risk groups within civil society, including nonprofits, advocacy groups, cultural and faith-based organizations, academic institutions, think tanks, journalists, dissidents, and diaspora communities. These groups are involved in defending human rights and promoting democracy, making them prime targets for cyber attacks by foreign threat actors.

Industry reports included in the advisory indicate that governments of Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are predominantly responsible for these state-sponsored cyber threats. Civil society organizations and their staff face a high risk of being targeted by these malicious cyber activities, largely due to their public-facing roles and limited resources to defend against such attacks.

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The advisory outlined various tactics used by threat actors, including posing as trustworthy sources to trick victims into clicking on malicious links and setting up fake apps to infiltrate personal accounts and devices. The cyber attackers invested significant time and resources in personalizing these attacks, making them more subversive and harder to detect.

Caroline Xavier, chief of CSE, emphasized protecting civil rights and free speech in Canada. “The expression of civil rights and free speech is a cornerstone of Canadian democracy. Unfortunately, authoritarian governments are increasingly using cyber means to target civil society groups and individuals, often across international borders. CSE, in close collaboration with global partners, is working hard to defend and protect our democratic institutions from such threats,” Xavier said.

Sami Khoury, head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, added, “The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, a part of CSE, welcomes this report. The best way to protect Canadians from the growing threat of foreign interference, and digital transnational repression is to raise awareness about the threat. We all have a role to play in defending Canada from threats to our democratic institutions, including our civil society organizations and individuals.”

The advisory provides prevention tips and resources for civil society organizations, individuals, and software manufacturers to enhance cyber security defences. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and its partners will continue to post advice and guidance online to help Canadians stay informed about cyber threats, including phishing and malware prevention.

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