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“Highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored” cyberattack hits Canada Government’s top research organization

Posted by Author on July 29, 2014

Note: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is in Beijing

A “highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor” recently managed to hack into the computer systems at Canada’s National Research Council, confirms the country’s chief information officer, Corinne Charette.

The attack was discovered by Communications Security Establishment Canada.

In a statement released Tuesday, Charette confirms that while the NRC’s computers operate outside those of the government of Canada as a whole, the council’s IT system has been “isolated” to ensure no other departments are compromised.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is in Beijing, and was scheduled to hold a press conference on his visit Tuesday, but that briefing was abruptly cancelled. No reason was immediately given, although in an email from Baird’s office in response to CBC questions, spokesman Rick Roth said they did not cancel any events as they were guests.

The office also said Baird raised this issue with his Chinese counterpart and the two had a “full and frank exchange of views.”

“The government takes this issue very seriously and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa,” the statement continued.

For its part, the NRC says in a statement released Tuesday morning that it is now attempting to rebuild its computer infrastructure and this could take as much a year.

The NRC works with private businesses to advance and develop technological innovations through science and research.

Not the 1st cyberattack from China

The NRC says it has already been in contact with many of its “clients and stakeholders,” but it could take as long as a year to secure the system.

This is not the first time the Canadian government has fallen victim to a cyberattack that seems to have originated in China — but it is the first time the Canadian government has unequivocally blamed China for the attack.

“They are right on the bull’s-eye — probably,” says security expert and former member of CSIS Michel Juneau-Katsuya.

“China is, by far, at the top of the ranks worldwide when it comes to cyber-espionage,” Juneau-Katsuya said in an interview with CBC News. “They are devoting hundreds-of-millions of dollars, thousands of people just specializing in hacking on their behalf.”

In January 2011, the federal government was forced to take the Finance Department and Treasury Board — the federal government’s two main economic nerve centres — off the internet after foreign hackers gained access to highly classified federal information.

The attack also targeted Defence Research and Development Canada, a civilian agency of the Department of National Defence that assists in the scientific and technological needs of the Canadian Forces.

The attacks were traced back to servers in China.

– Source: CBC News

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