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“Low sophistication” actors took aim at the last Canadian election

Canada’s head of cyber security says actors, including hacktivist groups, targeted the 2015 election. But they didn’t succeed.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA

A new report from Canada’s main cyber security agency says hackers, likely hacktivists and criminals, took aim at the last federal election.

And while nothing came of the “low sophistication” attempts to break into Canada’s electoral system, Canada is nevertheless starting to work on making sure something worse doesn’t happen next time.

In a report released on Friday, the Communication Security Establishment reports that although “we have not observed nation-states using cyber capabilities with the purpose of influencing the Canadian democratic process during an election,” they are nevertheless stepping up security to defend against a range of threats.


The report was released by CSE chief Greta Bossenmaier, alongside Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould in Ottawa.

The pair announced that the government would be holding meetings with each political party in the country to ensure that there are no vulnerabilities in their respective cyber infrastructure.

“We judge that, almost certainly, multiple hacktivist groups will deploy cyber capabilities in an attempt to influence the democratic process in 2019,” the report reads, referencing the date of the next scheduled federal election. “Hacktivists will likely study the success of past influence operations and adopt more sophisticated and successful activities.”

In military parlance, “almost certainly” is gauged at roughly 100 percent certainty.

The report adds that, while they expect rudimentary attacks will be the most common, “we expect that some influence activities will be well-planned and target more than one aspect of the democratic process, and could almost be characterized as medium-sophistication.”

And while they haven’t, necessarily, targeted Canada’s election systems, the report does state that “nation-states are constantly deploying cyber capabilities to try to gain access to Government of Canada networks and the communications of federal government officials.”

The report comes just as an investigation into Russian meddling in the most recent American election reaches its apex.

VICE News has previously reported that the Russian embassy in Ottawa has no qualms about targeting members of the Canadian government through the media.