Election meddling by foreign powers already underway, says Canadian spy agency

CSE CanadaThe manipulation of social media by foreign governments aiming to sow division in Canada ahead of the country’s federal election in October is growing, according to the country’s signals intelligence agency. In a report published Monday, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s national communications interception agency, warns that election meddling by foreign powers is already taking place. The report, titled “2019 Update: Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process”, says that voters, as well as specific political figures, have been targeted by foreign powers since 2015 in the North American country.

The foreign intelligence agencies behind the efforts to manipulate Canada’s electoral process have systematically attempted to “polarize Canadians or undermine Canada’s foreign policy goals”, says the report. These efforts will continue and intensify in the run-up to October, claims the report, and concludes by warning that Canadians should expect to “encounter some form of foreign cyber interference ahead of, and during, the 2019 federal election”. However, foreign cyber interference on the scale that was experienced in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election in the United States is improbable, according to the CSE.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, the former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s primary national intelligence service, said in an interview last week that Ottawa would have to be patient in dealing with Russia and —especially— China. Speaking at a public forum hosted by the Canadian International Council in Vancouver, Richard Fadden noted that neither China nor Russia wish to go to war with the West. What they want instead is to “fragment the West” and thus increase their own influence on the international scene, said Fadden, who directed the CSIS from 2009 to 2013. It would be fair for Canada to “poke back”, he said, but would have to be “careful how [to] do it”, he added. “We need to be realistic. We’re dealing with an emergent superpower and […] we’re going to have to be patient”, Fadden concluded.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 April 2019 | Research credit: C.D. | Permalink

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Did domestic snooping by Canadian spy agency increase 26-fold in a year?

CSE Canada - IAThe volume of domestic communications that were intercepted by Canada’s spy agency increased 26 times between 2014 and 2015, according to a recently released report by a government watchdog. The same report states that intercepted information about Canadian citizens, which is given to Canada’s spy agency by the intelligence organizations of other Western countries, has increased so much that it now requires an elaborate mechanism to analyze it. When asked to explain the reasons for these increases, Canadian government officials said they could not do so without divulging secrets of national importance.

Information about these increases is contained in the latest annual report by the Office of the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment. The body was set up in 1996 to review the operations of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). Founded in 1946, CSE is Canada’s primary signals intelligence agency. It is responsible for interception foreign communications while at the same time securing the communications of the Canadian government. The Office of the Commissioner monitors CSE’s activities and ensures that they conform with Canadian law. It also investigates complaints against the CSE’s conduct of and its officers.

Canadian law forbids the CSE from intercepting communications in which at least one of the parties participating in the exchange is located in Canada. If that happens, the message exchange is termed “private communication” and CSE is not allowed to intercept it, unless it gets written permission from Canada’s National Defense minister. Such permission is usually given only if the interception is deemed essential to protect Canadian national security or national defense. If a “private communication” is inadvertently intercepted, CSE is required to take “satisfactory measures” to protect the personal privacy of the participant in the exchange that is located inside Canada.

According to the CSE commissioner’s report for 2015, which was released in July, but was only recently made available to the media, CSE intercepted 342 “private communications” in 2014-2015. The year before, the spy agency had intercepted just 13 such exchanges. The report states that all 342 instances of interception during 2014-2015 were either unintentional or critical for the protection of Canada’s security. It further states that the reason for the huge increase is to be found in “the technical characteristics of a particular communications technology and of the manner in which private communications are counted”.

Canadian newspaper The Ottawa Citizen asked the CSE commissioner, Jean-Pierre Plouffe, to explain what he meant by “technical characteristics of a particular communications technology” in his report. His office responded that the commissioner could not explain the subject in more detail, because doing so would “reveal CSE operational capabilities” and thus hurt Canada’s national security. The newspaper also contacted CSE, but was given a similar answer. Some telecommunications security experts speculate that the increase in intercepted “private communications” may be due to exchanges in social media, whereby each message is counted separately.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 25 August 2016 | Permalink

Canada stops sharing intelligence with Five Eyes partners over data breach

CSE CanadaCanada says it will stop sharing certain types of intelligence with some of its closest international allies until it ensures that Canadian citizens’ information is not included in the data given to foreign spy agencies. The announcement follows an official admission, made earlier this week, that a Canadian intelligence agency failed to remove Canadian citizens’ data from information it shared with member-agencies of the so-called Five Eyes Agreement. The pact, which is sometimes referred to as the UK-USA Security Agreement, has been in existence since World War II. It provides a multilateral framework for cooperation in signals intelligence (SIGINT) between the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

On Thursday, the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) of Canada, Jean-Pierre Plouffe, published a report on the activities of the CSE —the country’s primary SIGINT agency. The document, which is published annually by the Commissioner, states that the majority of the CSE’s SIGINT collection activities took place in accordance with Canadian law. However, the report found that some of the data shared by CSE with its Five Eyes partners contained data that could potentially be used to identify the identities of Canadian citizens. According to Canadian law, the CSE is not allowed to specifically target the communications of —or information about— Canadian citizens or Canadian companies. Moreover, information pertaining to those, which may be indirectly collected in the course of legitimate targeting of foreign citizens, is supposed to be immediately purged by CSE collection staff.

However, the Commissioner’s report found that some metadata —namely information pertaining to communications other than their content— that could be used to identify Canadian citizens had been shared by the CSE with Five Eyes spy agencies. Later on Thursday, Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s Minister of Defense, announced that SIGINT intelligence-sharing would be suspended until the metadata breach identified in the Commissioner’s report could be adequately addressed and corrected. Minister Sajjan said the roots of the breach had to do with “technical deficiencies” at the CSE, but added that it was crucial that the privacy of Canadians was protected. Therefore, he said, the spy agency would “not resume sharing this information with our partners” until he was “fully satisfied” that the proper control systems were in place.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 January 2016 | Permalink

Brazil accuses Canada of economic espionage

CanadaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Brazilian government has demanded that Canada explain the role of its intelligence services in “unacceptable” incidents of espionage, which targeted the Latin American country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy. The announcement came just hours after a television report accused Canada of spying on Brazil’s mining and energy sector, allegedly for commercial gain. The report, which aired on O Globo television on Sunday night, said the spying had been carried out by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). Staffed by around 2,200 employees, the CSEC is Canada’s foremost signals intelligence agency, tasked with carrying out communications interception around the world. According to O Globo, the CSEC collected the metadata of emails and calls associated with computer and telephone systems belonging to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The information allowed Canadian intelligence to effectively map the communications structure of the government Ministry, through a network mapping program codenamed OLYMPIA. O Globo said its report was based on a CSEC PowerPoint presentation titled “Advanced Network Tradecraft”, which was produced in the summer of 2012 and shared with Canada’s allies, including the United Kingdom and the United States. The television station said that the information was based on a batch of documents leaked by former Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency technical expert Edward Snowden. Snowden defected from the US last summer and is currently living in Russia, were he has been offered political asylum. The Brazilian television station spoke to Edison Lobao, Brazil’s Mines and Energy Minister, who said that Canada’s primary economic interests in Brazil centered on “the mining sector”, and hinted that the alleged CSEC spying might have “served corporate interests”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #553 (Canada edition)

Northrop Frye

Northrop Frye

►►Analysis: Are Chinese spies getting an easy ride in Canada? Carl Meyer, of Embassy magazine, asks why Canada’s counterintelligence agencies are unwilling or unable to bring Chinese spies to court in recent years. Readers of this blog may recall controversial comments made last year by the director of CSIS, Richard Fadden, who claimed that some Canadian politicians work for foreign powers.
►►Canadian agency ‘illegally spying on Canadians’. Canada’s ultra-secret Communications Security Establishment, which engages in electronic communications interception, is prohibited from spying on Canadian citizens. But a new Canadian government report appears to instruct it to engage in mining ‘metadata’ from digital communications of Canadians. Readers of this blog may remember that, in 2009, a court permitted for the first time the CSE and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to eavesdrop on Canadian nationals traveling overseas.
►►RCMP spied on Canadian academic Northrop Frye. Speaking on spying on Canadians… Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0135

  • More revelations in “unprecedented” book on MI5 history. More revelations in Christopher Andrew’s In Defense of the Realm include the disclosure that Margaret Thatcher tried to get MI5 to spy on British trade union activists when she was Prime Minister (MI5 refused). Meanwhile, Professor Andrew has begun serializing selected chapters of the book in The London Times, here and here.
  • Court lets Canadian spies snoop on targets overseas. A court ruling has permitted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment to eavesdrop on Canadian nationals traveling overseas. Until now, the two agencies could spy on Canadians so long as they were within the country’s borders.
  • CIA endorses cloud computing. The CIA is emerging as one of the US government’s strongest advocates of cloud computing, even though “cloud computing as a term really didn’t hit our vocabulary until a year ago”, according to Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA’s deputy Chief Intelligence Officer. This article, however, fails to mention that the NSA is also moving to cloud computing in a big way.

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