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

Surrey council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council approves $7.3 million contract for street paving projects

City council awarded Lafarge Canada Inc. $7,326,667.95 for 15 road projects in North Surrey and one in South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Locke seeks breakdown on what Surreyites get for taxes paid to Metro Vancouver

Surrey councillor presented motion to council Monday asking city staff to do a cost/benefit analysis

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
SURREY NOW & THEN: Little Theatre’s 59-year history ends with big plans for move to Langley

A former church, the theatre building/property has sold for close to $900,000

Old trucks are seen in the yard at the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum in Cloverdale June 14, 2021. The Museum is reopening June 19 after a seven-month COVID closure. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale’s truck museum to reopen

B.C. Vintage Truck Museum set to open its doors June 19

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read