February 17, 2011

Canadian Cyber Attack Did Not Affect Federal Budget Timing

A top cabinet minister said on Thursday that a cyber attack on key Canadian economic ministries last month was serious, but will not affect the timing of next month's federal budget.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said hackers using China-based servers had broken into computer systems at the Finance Department and Treasury Board.

The Finance Department is preparing the federal budget, which will be delivered sometime next month.

"I wouldn't say it's the most aggressive (attack) but it was a significant one, significant that they were going after financial records ... We were able to shut things down and protect information," Treasury Board Minister Stockwell Day told reporters.

"It slows down your internal operations for a while because we had to immediately shut down certain parts of the network ... but those are all in the process of being reopened. The budget's on track and it's going to be a good budget."

CBC said the hackers gained access to an agency that advises the armed forces on science and technology.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denied there was a Chinese link to the hacking.

Canada's spy service complains regularly about what it says is industrial espionage by China and other states.

Professor Wesley Wark, a leading intelligence specialist at the University of Toronto, told Reuters that the fact the story leaked out meant authorities must be convinced there was no threat.

"Treasury Board and Finance are not the most obvious targets for a state-run espionage or disruptive effort. So that part is murky, as is often the case with cyber attacks," he told Reuters.

Canada's minority Conservative government markedly toned down its criticism of China's human rights record while trying to increase bilateral trade.

Canadian researchers said last year that a cyber-espionage group based in southwest China had stolen documents from the Indian Defense Ministry and emails from the Dalai Lama's office.

The same researchers described a systematic cyber-infiltration of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which they called GhostNet.


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