Ah Espionage, an activity as sexy as the word sounds. Sharp tuxedos, beautiful Eastern European women, an evil fat guy with a monocle and a Russian accent, and shoe telephones. Although during the Cold War Canada didn’t experience the espionage boom like Britain or the U.S did, we are getting a taste now, though it doesn’t involve the suave, bisyllabic named adonises of MI-6 as much as it does sweaty Asian men behind computer screens, most likely drinking a mixture of Redbull and Gatorade from a mug.
The Canadian government is blaming China for cyber attacks on the National Research Council, Ottawa’s premier scientific research agency, proving that anything sounds cooler if you put the word cyber in front of it. The NRC handles leading research in satellite technology, space, and industrial innovations. The federal government’s chief information officer stated the computers were hacked by sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored hackers. Federal officials refuse to disclose what data was stolen from the NRC and whether the hackers were able to get their hands on corporate secrets; however, NRC president John McDougall, in a conference call to employees, told them that “any information held in our systems, including employees’ personal information, may have been compromised. Client information and data may also have been compromised.” Ottawa has quarantined the research councils computers and isolated its network.
This is a very delicate situation for Canada. It’s always Americans that get to say, “There’s been a breach of national security.” That’s probably one of the coolest sentences there is to say! But now the ball is our court, and we’ll have to play it just right to ensure a bunch of kick-ass spy movies are made about this debacle.
China has so far played the Shaggy Card, rejecting all claims that the Chinese government had anything to do with the cyber attack. Yang Yondong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said, “We do not accept the groundless allegation of Chinese government’s involvement, it is neither professional nor responsible to make groundless speculations and accusations.”
This breach comes in the wake of over $240 million of government spending on cyber-security in Ottawa over the past five years. This cyber security slip has caused that sum of money’s effectiveness to come in question, as well as the effectiveness of Canada’s electronic spying agency, Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). With CSEC now gaining public attention, it has been revealed that this agency is able to intercept the private messages of citizens without judicial warrant. A 22 page “Operational Procedures of Cyber Defence” document has been obtained that describes how CSEC can log, store and study volumes of electronic communication that touch government networks, including the private communications of Canadians not thought to be hackers. In 2001, Parliament passed a law allowing the CSEC to snoop on Canadians’ private communications without a warrant, so long as the politician running the Defence Department signs what’s known as a “ministerial authorization.”
Now, now, don’t go marching on Parliament Hill in full Guy Fawkes outfits just yet. Though these measures meant to stop hackers may cause collateral damage for Canadian privacy, it mainly only affects people who engage with the government frequently online. We’re not living in an Orwellian dystopian future quite yet. Ryan Foreman, a spokesman for the agency says, “We take strict measures to protect the privacy of Canadians,” saying that private communications are only retained “if they contain or are suspected to contain malware or other threats.”
Or maybe that’s what they want you to think. Does the government control much more than your privacy? Does Harper control the headlines, what you watch on TV, or even when the McRib come back? Despite this being your biggest fear come true, you like it, don’t you? You like the order, you like the comfort. You know that without this there would be chaos. So keep clicking through this website in a mindless trance because Big Brother is watching you.
Or maybe he isn’t, I don’t know. Did someone say McRib? I could go for McDees run right about now.