Ralph Goodale says Ukraine cyberattack caused 'international anxiety'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked his public safety minister to review all government operations to see if Canada is well protected against a possible cyberattack.

Federal review follows cyberattack in Ukraine last year that left thousands without power

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is leading a government wide review to determine how prepared the systems are to withstand a cyber attack, similar to what shut down part of Ukraine's power grid last December. (CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked his public safety minister to review all government operations to see if Canada is well protected against a possible cyberattack.

This review comes on the heels of the cyberattack on Ukraine's power grid last December that caused a blackout for hundreds of thousands of people.

Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant raised the incident in Ukraine with Ralph Goodale at a parliamentary committee today.

"The concern is that this type of sophisticated, planned, synchronized attack could occur in North America," Gallant told the committee.

"What measures are in place to make sure that just such a coordinated attack or perhaps a more sophisticated one does not impede our electricity system and all the items attached to the grid that we depend on?" she added.

Goodale says what happened in Ukraine came up at a recent meeting in Washington with Canada's closest security partners. The "Five Eyes" group includes the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

"It's a matter of international anxiety," Goodale said.

To that end, Goodale said he has been asked by the prime minister to do a government-wide review of the state of cyber security operations "to make sure that we are on top of this kind of operation and the problem that hit Ukraine will be properly defended against in Canada." 

"We think that is the case today, but the review will ask that critical question: Are we sure? And we want to be sure," he added.

Canada not immune

An attack on the computers at the National Research Council in July 2014 was eventually blamed on the Chinese.

That same year, the Canada Revenue Agency had to shut down its website for a few days after the Heartbleed Internet bug breached the computer system. About 900 social security numbers were stolen.

The deputy minister at public safety, François Guimont, told the committee he believes the critical response team set up to deal with cyberattacks does a good job.

"They keep literally a laboratory of viruses that they study, understand, and they're very quick at disseminating this information to other constituents in Canada for them to take action to protect themselves," Guimont said.

"So progress has been made, but I will tell members of the committee, the cyber file, unlike other files if you wish, is always evolving."

The public safety department isn't alone is dealing with cybercrime.

The RCMP has received an extra $110 million in recent supplementary spending estimates. Part of that money is earmarked for cyberterrorism.

Guimont says the government-wide review of the cyberstrategy is timely.

"The strategy is not that old. But the file is moving so quickly it's time to step back, see where we are and carry out actions where we think we may have weaknesses," Guimont told the committee.

As he was wrapping up his testimony, Goodale asked the committee members if they had changed their passwords today, reminding them to do that frequently.


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