Ottawa to spend $155 million more on cyber security

It may be a coincidence, but a week after a U.S. warnings over cyber security the Harper government announced it will spend $155 million to boost federal online protection.

“Canadians and Canadian businesses want to know that the private information they entrust to government will stay private,” Public Safety minister Vic Toews said Wednesday in making the announcement.

“Our Government is continuously working to enhance cyber security in Canada by identifying cyber threats and vulnerabilities, and by preparing for and responding to all kinds of cyber incidents to better protect Canada and Canadians.”

The money, to be spent over five years, will “reinforce” federal IT infrastructure and improve the detection of cyber threats, Toews said. It’s in addition to the planned $90 million over five years and $18 million ongoing announced in October 2010.

Some of the money will go to his department’s Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC), which responds to Internet security incidents on non-government systems, to expand collaboration within the government and with corporations and other countries. Funds will also help strengthen the centre’s analytical capability.

The centre regularly issues public bulletins, usually security advisories and links to software updates from major IT manufacturers. It also offers advice to private sector IT professionals.

The announcement came at a time when governments have suddenly become sensitive to the dangers of cyber attacks. Last week  a U.S. congressional committee branded the network equipment by Chinese manufactures Huawei and ZTE untrustworthy to put on American networks. Huawei’s gear is used by BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, SaskTel and Telus Corp. , whose networks link to U.S. networks.

It also comes after U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta – pushing for federal cybersecurity legislation stalled in Congress — warned that his country faces the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” from foreign hackers unless the government acts.

According to the Toronto Star, at his press conference Toews refused to say whether Huawei should be forbidden from bidding on a new private government network being planned to consolidated federal telecommunications.

The Globe and Mail noted that the funding also comes ahead of an auditor general’s report on the strength of the federal cyber strategy. 

While the federal government has a cyber strategy, it hasn’t been enough to completely protect its systems. In 2011 the government discovered that hackers had penetrated Treasury Board, followed two months later by another break.

In 2010 the government announced a Cyber Security strategy aimed at securing government systems, working with provincial and territorial governments and the private sector to ensure critical infrastructure is protected, and helping ordinary Canadians to get information to protect their wired and wireless computers and mobile devices.

Public Safety Canada has been charged with co-ordinating the strategy for securing government systems, although Treasury Board is responsible for government IT security. The Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s electronic spy agency, helps detect and discover threats.

The strategy included the establishment of public-private sector panels that meet to exchange information on possible cyber threats and responses. In addition, as part of a strategy to protect critical infrastructure, Public Safety Canada oversees the National Cross Sector Forum, 10 public-private sectors groups that meet periodically to discuss issues for the following industries: information and communication technology; energy and utilities; finance; food; transportation; government; health; water safety and manufacturing

While Toews said a portion of the $155 million is going to CCIRC, he didn’t say how much. Nor did he say where the rest of the money is going.

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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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