The federal cybersecurity agency warns that Canadians are likely to face efforts by “foreign authors” to influence or obstruct their right to vote before and during the next federal election, which could come sooner than expected.
The Telecommunications Security Establishment (CST) also says in a new report that holding federal elections during the COVID-19 pandemic may well increase this threat of foreign interference, as some electoral and democratic activity will take place online. .
But CSE trusts Elections Canada. “Any change to the electoral process may lead to an increase in the cyber threat, but we believe that the planned changes will not significantly increase the cyber threat to Canada’s democratic process,” the new report reads.
This report is released as the Prime Minister Justin trudeau could spark an election campaign this summer or fall, which would bring Canadians to the polls for the second time in three years.
CSE is particularly concerned about the expected increase in the number of Canadians who will vote by mail this time around. The agency warns that foreigners could try to use this way of voting to undermine Canadians’ confidence in election results, by making it appear to be less reliable by mail.
“In our opinion, it is very likely that, in the next federal election, we will witness the dissemination of false information which would weave a link between voting by mail and electoral fraud,” according to the report. The CSE believes, however, that these false messages will be “less present and influential” than in the 2020 US election. Allegations of widespread electoral fraud have often been perpetuated, but never proven, by Donald Trump and his supporters.
And while CSE believes there will be attempts to influence most Canadians, it says that “compared to other countries, Canada’s democratic process is not a priority target for sponsored cyber threats. States “.
The fact that the federal ballot is still based heavily on paper documents is also taken for granted. CSE also applauds Elections Canada’s “robust defense measures” and several other measures adopted by the government in recent years.
The CST report blames most of the sponsored cyber threat activity against democratic processes around the world since 2015 on foreign governments, most of it perpetrated by perpetrators in Russia, China and Iran.
Canada is a potential target, according to the report, due to its active role on the world stage, which can impact other countries, foreign groups and individuals.
“Threaters could use cyber tools to target Canada’s democratic process with the aim of altering election results, influencing the choices of policy makers and the government’s relations with its foreign and domestic partners, or undermining the Canada’s reputation on the world stage, ”the report reads.
And although Canada may have good defenses and does not appear to be a major target at the moment, the CST recalls that an increasing number of actors have the tools, the capacity and the understanding of the political landscape of this country to take actions in the future “if they are motivated by a strategic objective”.
The number of attacks on elections around the world increased significantly between 2015 and 2017, according to the CST, but it has since leveled off. And as threats have become more sophisticated, so too have the measures adopted by governments to protect themselves.
The CSE also says voters are targeted more often than political parties or the poll itself, possibly because the foreign perpetrators of these cyber threats think it’s easier and more effective.
Political parties and candidates will likely be targeted in the next vote, as they will conduct more campaign activity on the Internet and use more online tools than before, the CSE recalls. But “it is very unlikely that this cyber threat is part of a sophisticated campaign waged precisely against a political party or a candidate.”
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