Hackers Stole Classified Information in Canadian Government Attack

by Jordan Richardson on June 3, 2011

Jeff Wiener’s “How Secure is our Tech Security?” piece summed up some recent security incidents as of late and rightly addressed the issue of how secure we really can expect to be. “If our best security minds can’t protect a leader in the tech community, what hope for security do you and I have?” he wrote.

Beyond leaders in the tech community, hackers are pressing into more significant areas with attacks on governments, private citizens and so forth. Nothing is safe, nothing is secure. Our own Canadian government has been compromised, with a recent attack coming to light in January.

At the time, it was thought that computer systems at three key government departments were targeted: the Finance Department, the Treasury Board, and Defence Research and Development Canada. As I noted, “the attack began when hackers using servers gained access to a number of Canadian government computers.”

Now at the time, former Treasury Board president Stockwell Day said that he wasn’t aware that any classified information had actually been stolen from government computers. He said that he believed that the systems had been shut down quickly enough, preventing anything overly sensitive from getting into the wrong hands.

But according to new information obtained by the CBC via Access to Information laws, classified information was most assuredly stolen by hackers during the breach. Day says that he was told that the information was safe.

“Certainly, on the information that I got, I had full confidence that the systems had moved quickly to shut down, that significant information had not in fact been carried away, and that the ongoing assessment of that by the technicians continues,” he told CBC News. “All the information that I had been getting, up until the point when I was no longer minister, the folders were protected. The walls had been breached, but it looked like the folders were protected, and now comes the painstaking work of seeing if in fact everything was maintained.”

The affected departments involved have rolled out a series of precautions to tighten cyber-security, but this government still remains hopelessly behind in terms of protecting its own systems. Communications response to the attacks has been carefully monitored, too, with the government scripting each statement made on cyber-security down to the letter. At least they’re taking PR seriously.

The biggest problem is that hackers and cyber-crooks are taking this issue more seriously than the corporations and government departments. They are three steps ahead of the average tech departments at our hallowed institutions and they know the ins and outs of most “elaborate” security systems in the world. Each time a piece of technology evolves, each time a cyber-hole is filled and a gap covered, a hacker group has solved it and has already moved on.

As long as organized PR campaigns to convince us about our cyber-security are given more financing and time than the actual defence systems, we will continue to be attacked. Period.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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