OTTAWA—Cyber attacks waged via the Internet are the fastest growing form of espionage, Canada’s spy agency says.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) also warns that the energy, financial and telecommunications sectors are becoming increasingly vulnerable to attack.
Attackers target computer systems to acquire technology, intellectual property, strategy and commercial or weapons-related information, as well as details of national strategies on a variety of domestic and foreign issues, the CSIS annual report says.
The security service says it investigated threats against critical systems last year by foreign countries, terrorists and hackers.
“Increasingly, cyber-related tools and techniques have been added to the methods utilized by hostile actors to attack public- and private-sector systems,” says the report tabled Monday in Parliament.
“CSIS focuses its investigations on politically motivated threats or incidents where the integrity, confidentiality or availability of the critical information infrastructure is affected.”
Certain foreign agencies are conducting intelligence operations within Canada, CSIS director Dick Fadden says in a foreword to the report.
The spy agency did not respond to a request to interview him.
In a speech last year, Fadden said state-sponsored espionage against Canada was being conducted at levels equal to or greater than during the Cold War.
Canada is attractive to foreign spies because it’s an innovative leader in areas such as the aerospace industry, mining, agriculture, biotechnology and communications, he said.
“Certainly, China has often been cited in media reports as an example of a country that engages in such activity but it would not be exclusive to that country. Just as the Internet is global, so is the cyber threat,” Fadden said.
It cites public information describing the use of botnets—networks of compromised machines that can be purchased or rented by potential attackers—as well as rogue emails, Twitter and other social networking services to launch attacks.
“CSIS is aware that this cyber-based variant is the fastest growing form of espionage, that the threat of cyberattacks is one of the most complicated issues affecting the public and private sectors and that attacks on the latter have grown substantially and are becoming more complex and difficult to detect,” the report notes.