Ottawa increases spending to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks

Ottawa is pumping $142.6 million more into cyber security, with some of it helping the private sector get threat intelligence from the federal government.

The spending, announced Wednesday by Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney, is in addition to the $94.4 million for cyber security set aside in the budget earlier this year, making the total federal spend on cyber security over the next five years $237 million.

The new money is to bolster the Harper government’s Cyber Security Strategy, announced five years ago, which not only includes improving security of federal systems but also partnering with the private sector on critical infrastructure sectors like energy and banking.

A Public Safety Canada spokesperson said there won’t be a detailed break-down of where the new $142.6 million over five years is going. The news release says some will go to “secure essential systems outside of the government.” A background paper issued with the announcement says it will also go to three places:

Greater capacity for the federally-run Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC) to respond to, and mitigate, cyber incidents in the private sector. Through the development of real-time automated feeds, the private sector will receive additional threat information and faster dissemination;

Money for the Regional Resilience Assessment Program (RRAP), a site assessment project done in co-operation with the U.S. to enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure in both countries. Funding will bolster the capacity of the RRAP to incorporate cyber security into the site assessment process. This measure will enable Public Safety Canada to assess the overall cyber security of an organization and provide recommendations to improve resilience;

— Funding to develop the RCMP’s ability to detect and disrupt cybercrime activities. Money will help the Mounties will establish a dedicated investigative team to combat high-priority cybercrime, as well as to boost their intelligence capacity, technical support and law enforcement training.

Of the $94.4 million announced in the budget, the bulk ($58 million) is going to secure federal networks, while $36.4 million will help “vital cyber systems” remain safe.

In 2010 the Harper government announced a national strategy  to better protect critical infrastructure calling for the public and private sectors to work on addressing risks. But two years later the Auditor General released a report complaining the strategy still didn’t have an action plan. That plan has since been completed, and the government says some progress has been made.

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“As long as our digital infrastructure continues to evolve, there will always be those who try to exploit vulnerabilities to undermine Canada’s national security, public safety and economic prosperity,” Blaney said in a statement today. “Collaboration and information-sharing with critical infrastructure sectors and private sector partners is our best defence to protect our essential cyber systems.”

He made the announcement with John Manley, CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, who is also co-chair of an advisory committee on cyber security. “Cyber security is a shared responsibility,” he said in a statement, “so I am pleased about this important step forward to enhance our collaboration with the federal government on this important issue. These advancements to the strategy will ensure our essential systems have the latest threat information, as well as help us to continue to build on each other’s strengths.”

It isn’t clear why this spending is being announced now and wasn’t included in the recent budget.

A call to Manley’s office for more details on the spending wasn’t returned.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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