2019 Update on Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process
Ottawa, April 8, 2019 – The Government of Canada understands the importance of protecting Canadians from foreign interference, protecting our democracy, and ensuring our next election is fair, free and secure. Today, the Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, and the Minister of Democratic Institutions, the Honourable Karina Gould welcomed the Communications Security Establishment (CSE)’s 2019 Update: Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process report and thanked them for their work. This threat assessment follows the government’s recently announced measures to safeguard Canada’s 2019 general election.
The assessment provides an update to the 2017 report on Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process. Its focus and purpose is to let Canadians know about the cyber threat activity undertaken by foreign adversaries to interfere in democratic processes around the world. Canada is not immune to such interference.
Overall, cyber threat activity continues to target three main aspects of the democratic process:
- Political parties, candidates, and their staff; and
The assessment concludes that it is very likely that Canadian voters will encounter foreign cyber interference ahead of, and during, the 2019 general election. Political parties, candidates, and their staff continue to be attractive targets. Canadians can continue to rely on Canada’s strong and secure electoral process, as our federal elections remain largely paper-based. CSE and its national security and intelligence partner agencies continue to monitor, detect, and combat any covert cyber foreign interference activity.
The Security and Intelligence Threats to Election (SITE) Task Force – CSE, together with officials from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Global Affairs Canada – is working to identify and prevent covert, clandestine, or criminal activities from influencing or interfering with the electoral process in Canada by:
- Building awareness of foreign threats to Canada’s electoral process; and
- Preparing the Government to assess and respond to those threats.
The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has published a brochure on Cyber Security Advice for Political Candidates. This advice and guidance aims to provide political parties, candidates, and their staff with helpful tips and best practices to protect themselves against malicious cyber activity. CSE will continue to protect and defend Elections Canada from possible cyber threats.
Finally, the Government of Canada has implemented a Critical Election Incident Public Protocol ahead of the 2019 general election. This is a simple, clear, and impartial process for informing Canadians if serious incidents threaten the integrity of the 2019 general election.
“The Communications Security Establishment has applied their unique perspective and expertise to produce this updated assessment of the threats to our democratic institutions. I encourage all Canadians to read and follow CSE and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s advice on basic cyber practices.”
- Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
“A healthy democracy is built on fair, free and secure elections. We recognize that foreign adversaries may use cyber technology to interfere and influence Canadians like they have done in other countries. The CSE report fortifies the Government of Canada’s already solid, multi-faceted effort to safeguard our elections. Our plan announced earlier this year works to identify, assess and respond to potential threats.”
- Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions
- In 2018, half of all advanced democracies holding national elections have had their democratic process targeted by cyber threat activity. This represents about a three-fold increase since 2015 and CSE expects the upward trend to continue in 2019.
- Foreign cyber interference – interference activity enabled by cyber tools – targeting voters has become the most common type of cyber threat activity against democratic processes worldwide. Cyber threat actors manipulate online information, often using cyber tools, in order to influence voters’ opinions and behaviours.
- Canada’s federal elections are largely paper-based and Elections Canada has a number of legal, procedural, and information technology (IT) measures in place that provide robust protections against attempts to covertly change the official vote count.
- CSE and its Canadian Centre for Cyber Security will continue to work diligently with Elections Canada, national security and intelligence partner agencies, and federal political parties to combat foreign cyber interference.
For more information (media only), please contact:
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Office of the Minister of Democratic Institutions
Communications Security Establishment