In the face of what it calls Russia’s “malicious cyber activities” in its war against Ukraine, Canada is urging the G7 nations to create a working group to share cybersecurity best practices for protecting their IT and telecom critical infrastructure.
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters Friday he made that suggestion after a meeting this week of ministers from G7 countries responsible for digital issues.
In a joint declaration this week the ministers said Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine has highlighted the reliance of critical activities in connected societies on digital infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure in particular, and related vulnerabilities. We underscore the importance of protecting the digital infrastructure of free societies against malicious interference and influence of authoritarian regimes.”
This morning, in a teleconference media availability from Brussels, Champagne said that “to me, having a working group would be one of the best ways to implement the vision, actions and intentions that were stated in the communiqué. Let’s work together to pool our resources, our different agencies together to be able to do that.”
There already is a G7 Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) for protecting members from foreign threats to democracy. It helps co-ordinate responses to information manipulation and disinformation. Champagne said his proposed working group would be similar.
“I proposed with the chair [this year Germany holds the chair for the annual G7 meetings; the national leaders will meet there next month] there be a discussion about a quick reaction group on cybersecurity,” Champagne said. “The whole thinking about that is how can we make ourselves more resilient in light of the war in Ukraine, but also understanding 5G and the internet of things will have an impact on our daily lives, understanding that the telecommunications networks are probably the most important and critical infrastructure in the economy of the 21st Century.”
Champagne also noted that an official from Ukraine spoke to the digital ministers this week. After that “there was a desire for action to make sure we were best prepared,” he said. “That’s why cybersecurity was the pre-eminent theme of our meetings, trying to see how we can pool resources, agencies. How we can have a quick reaction group, or whatever the presidency would want to call, would be a step further in the spirit of what we discussed — learning from what happened in Ukraine, learning from what other countries have been subject to, and therefore thinking how we can best prepare ourselves.”
Coincidentally, during Champagne’s press conference on the importance of having a resilient telecom infrastructure, the phone line went dead for several minutes.
In their communique, the G7 digital ministers repeated a March 24th statement from their national leaders that the group is committed to continuing efforts to support Ukraine in defending its networks against cyber incidents.
They also agreed to work on facilitating cross-border data transfers, supporting competitive digital markets, and promoting the use of electronic transferable records to facilitate international trade.
There will also be a meeting on June 19th of G7 ministers responsible for media, which will look at the current global media policy situation, including disinformation and protecting freedom of expression for members of the press.
Separately, Champagne gave no date when the Liberal government will introduce new legislation to replace the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The previous government’s attempt died when Parliament was dissolved for the 2021 election amid criticism from federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien.
Champagne said he is talking to all political parties about new legislation, which he wants to be “best in class.” However, on timing he said that “I don’t control the parliamentary agenda.”