A computer wrapped in padlocked chains is seen in Montreal in a Dec. 14, 2012, photo illustration. The sort of brazen digital attack that recently shut down a key U.S. energy pipeline could strike Canada, says the head of the federal cyberprotection agency. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

A computer wrapped in padlocked chains is seen in Montreal in a Dec. 14, 2012, photo illustration. The sort of brazen digital attack that recently shut down a key U.S. energy pipeline could strike Canada, says the head of the federal cyberprotection agency. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Attack that held U.S. pipeline hostage could happen in Canada: cyberprotection chief

Health-sector organizations are popular ransomware targets because they have significant financial resources

The sort of brazen digital attack that recently shut down a key U.S. energy pipeline could strike Canada, says the head of the federal cyberprotection agency.

“The fact is, it can happen anywhere,” said Scott Jones of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. “I’d be lying if I said something other than that, but I’m not gonna lie.”

The operator of a major pipeline in the United States took its system offline this month after hackers infiltrated its computer systems. The company paid US$4.4 million to the criminals so it could quickly restore the vital fuel link.

In its most recent report on the threat landscape, the Centre for Cyber Security underscored concerns about ransomware attacks, in which swindlers hold data or computer systems hostage in exchange for payment.

It noted that three Ontario hospitals and a Canadian diagnostic and specialty testing company were victims of ransomware attacks in late 2019, as well as a medical company in Saskatchewan early last year.

Health-sector organizations are popular ransomware targets because they have significant financial resources and network downtime can have life-threatening consequences for patients, increasing the likelihood that victims will pay the ransom, said the centre’s report, released last November.

It predicted ransomware attacks directed against Canada would almost certainly continue to target large enterprises and critical infrastructure providers.

For Jones, taking steps to ward off these attacks is crucial.

“How do we prevent that compromise from reaching that level? How do we get to the information-sharing level we need to so that we catch it early?” he said.

“If we can make it more expensive and risky for the cybercriminals to go after an organization, they’ll move on to something else that’s less risky.”

Jones and John Lambert, vice-president of the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, recently spoke to The Canadian Press about their collaborative efforts to ensure the security of Canadian government and private-sector agencies.

The Cyber Security Centre’s 2020 threat report said the state-sponsored programs of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest strategic danger to Canada. But it stressed the most likely threat would be the persistent efforts of criminals to steal personal, financial and corporate information.

Lambert expressed concern about criminal actions like the recent U.S. pipeline episode.

“While traditionally some of the most sophisticated threats that organizations have worried about might be linked to nation states, these incidents show that ransomware attacks are just as devastating, and potentially more so,” Lambert said.

Jones said one defensive tactic is to make it harder for the cybercriminals — taking away their opportunities by encouraging agencies and businesses to adopt robust security practices.

Moving data into the digital cloud, for instance, can be a viable option for small businesses that lack in-house information-technology expertise, he suggested.

The Trudeau government recently signalled it is pressing ahead with efforts to counter economic-based threats to national security, such as theft of valuable intellectual property and damage to critical energy and information networks.

Public Safety Canada said it would guide development of a comprehensive framework across the government to deal with the broad range of risks to Canada’s economic well-being.

No matter the type of electronic system to be defended, government, industry and academia must work together and exchange information, Jones said.

“And we need to be able to exchange it early. Not, ‘Oh, three months ago, I was hit and here’s what it looked like.’”

Rather, rapidly comparing notes can be pivotal, Jones said.

“When you look at the partnership we have with John’s team, we do that all the time: ‘We’re seeing something very strange. What are you seeing? How can we share?’”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

cybersecurityPipelineUSA

Just Posted

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Richard Green and Alex Campbell stand in solemn reflection of the survivors and victims of the residential school system on May 30, in Prince Rupert National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 is a time to reflect on the sacrifices and honour the contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Metis of Canada. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Reflecting on National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 is to celebrate the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis to Canada’s culture

Mark Perry in concert at the old Driftwood School (Marty Clemens photo)
Mark Perry releases new single ahead of Northwest album.

“Golden Spruce” tells the story of a forester who cut down an old-growth Sitka Spruce on Haida Gwaii

Five rehabilitated grizzly bears were released this month into the Bella Coola area. The Northern Lights Wildlife Society will also be delivering 36 black bears to areas across the province where they were previously found. “They’re ready to go and they’re already trying to get out,” says Angelika Langen. “We feel good when we can make that possible and they don’t have to stay behind fences for the rest of their lives.” (Northern Lights Wildlife Society Facebook photo)
Suspected methamphetamine and scale seized by police. (Terrace RCMP photo)
Terrace RCMP seize guns, ammo, suspected narcotics

Man released after court appearance

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read