Cybersecurity is one of the most important things a person, company and even a country can invest in, and Canada has just outlined how they will protect the country from the threat of digital attacks.
Several federal ministers today unveiled the National Cyber Security Strategy to form a cohesive document outlining the best protection for Canadians’ digital privacy, security and economy. The document outlines how to both prevent cybercrimes and combat them when they occur. This is the first time the Canadian government has compiled a report like this.
One major component of the strategy is consolidating all federal cyber operations into the new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security which will act as the one clear national authority on the matter. Scott Jones will head up the centre, as he was previously responsible for IT Security Branch at the Communications Security Establishment.
“I am honoured to be named the first head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security,” said Jones. “The Cyber Centre will bring together the government’s leading-edge cyber security operational talent from the Communications Security Establishment, Public Safety, and Shared Services Canada to be a unified and trusted source for cyber security information for the country. The Cyber Centre will be outward-facing, open to collaboration with industry partners and academia, as well as a trusted resource for faster, stronger responses to cyber security incidents.”
In addition, the RCMP will launch a National Cybercrime Coordination Unit to help coordinate investigations into digital attacks across the country.
The strategy itself is broken down into three sections: Security and Resilience, Cyber Innovation, and Leadership and Collaboration. The entire document looks to place Canada in the global pantheon of advanced and digitally-protected nations. To do this, Canada’s 2018 budget unveiled more than $500 million over the next five years to contribute to cybersecurity.
Security and Resilience
This section breaks down why cybersecurity is so important right now, as “perpetrators of malicious cyber activity are extremely diverse, with varying aims and a wide array of techniques.” The report also shows different motives behind attacks, from monetary gains to “hacktivism.”
Canada seems to place an emphasis on protecting digital infrastructures such as electricity grids, financial institutions and communications grids, as they are technically vulnerable to attacks and can result in mass disruptions of service if they go down. The strategy also makes a note to support SMEs that may not have the funds or knowhow to fully protect themselves from attacks—an important initiative considering up to nine out of 10 companies suffered a digital breach last year.
Cybersecurity innovation at an individual level is highlighted and championed, such as an increased knowledge of digital literacy and threat mitigation. The report notes several investments the country is making that will “help to equip Canadians with skills for the digital age,” such as the $30 million Digital Literacy Exchange Program created for seniors, new and low-income Canadians, Indigenous people, and those living in northern or rural areas.
A small section on quantum technology is also included, highlighting its increasing importance, especially in medical fields. The federal government has made a few investments into the field, but because quantum computing can be used for a variety of purposes, it’s hard to tie them into cybersecurity. Examples include a $10 million investment into Vancouver’s D-Wave Systems from a cleantech fund, and $1.5 million from the Canadian Space Agency given to the University of Waterloo to fund a quantum encryption satellite—an initiative that private companies like RBC are also getting into.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the innovation section comes from the government’s goal to remain adaptive when it comes to creating a cybersecurity ecosystem while also placing a focus on homegrown tactics and companies.
“We will explore initiatives to ensure that Canadian companies can bring their products to a global market,” the report reads. “The Government will explore initiatives to drive domestic demand for cyber security technologies and services.”
Leadership and Collaboration
This is more of a promise that the federal government will pledge to protect the government, all types of businesses, and any individuals with this new strategy.
“From individuals that use few technologies to tech-savvy businesses that are firmly rooted in the online world, many do not realize that they could be the target of cyber threats. As a result, they do not have measures in place to protect themselves and recover from cyber incidents. Even those that recognize the importance of securing their information may find it hard to identify affordable and effective measures to protect themselves.”
Blockchain technology is mentioned right off the top as a new technology that could enable “secure service delivery…for wider economic and societal benefits.” Canada is already experimenting with blockchain to help establish the identity of travellers as well as increase transparency surrounding how government projects are selected and funded.
The strategy wraps up with a promise to Canadians that the government will take cybersecurity seriously and do all they can to protect the digital interests of its citizens.
“The federal government will lead, in partnership with provinces, territories, and the private sector, the development of a national plan to prevent, mitigate and respond to cyber incidents, one that ensures efficient coordination and effective action.”
Why is it necessary?
In total, Canadians spend the most time online compared to any other country—43.5 hours a month. Cybercrime costs the country 0.17 per cent of its GDP, which equals out to over $3 billion.
“Cyber security is not only a challenge, but an opportunity,” said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “Virtually every aspect of our modern lives depends on information technology.”
“If Canadians are empowered to improve their cyber security and adapt to new threats—across government, the private sector and our personal use—we will not only realize the potential of the digital economy and keep our own data secure, but we can sell those skills and innovations to the huge, growing market in the rest of the world, creating high-paying middle-class jobs. The National Cyber Security Strategy is the Government of Canada’s roadmap to get there.”