An Ottawa man has been charged with a series of cybercrimes in Canada and the US after a joint investigation that spanned nearly two years by the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP in Canada and the FBI in Alaska.
Police say a 31-year-old Ottawa resident has been charged with fraud, possession of a device to gain unauthorized use of a computer system or to commit mischief, and unauthorized use of a computer under the Penal Code.
They claim that a number of “probative material”, including desktops and laptops, a tablet, several hard drives, cell phones, and a number of blank cards with magnetic stripes, were seized and retained for investigation.
The defendant is being held pending further court appearances in Ottawa.
Police used the arrest announcement Tuesday to warn individuals, businesses and governments of the threat of cybercrime.
“It’s not just the way of the future,” OPP Detective Inspector Matt Watson said in an interview. “It is the way of the present … This is real.”
The OPP reports a 140 percent increase in cybercrime since 2019, targeting individuals and businesses.
Watson said organized crime and governments are behind some of the digital misdeeds.
“It’s an incredibly invasive type of crime that leaves people wrecked,” Watson said. “This is not a crime against ordinary property. Cybercrime moves at the speed of the Internet, ”said Watson.
The 23-month investigation began when the OPP contacted the FBI regarding what police call Canada-based ransomware attacks against private, government, and commercial personal data systems in North America, including computers for medical facilities in Alaska.
What followed was a joint effort by the OPP’s Cyber Operations Section, the RCMP’s National Cyber Crimes Coordination Unit (NC3), the FBI, Europol and the Dutch authorities.
“We are much further ahead of where we were five years ago,” Watson said.
Brian Abellera, the FBI’s deputy legal attaché in Ottawa, said the office will continue to work with the OPP and the RCMP “to investigate these malicious cyber actors who continue to attack the infrastructure of the United States and Canada.”
“The effort is one of many that will be carried out between Canada and the United States,” Abellera said at a press conference.
Chris Lynam, director general of the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit and the Canada Anti-Fraud Center, said cybercrime requires a multi-agency response.
“Cybercrime is a growing threat to Canadians,” Lynam said during the press conference, urging individuals and organizations who believe they have been victims to contact local law enforcement and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center.
“All Canadians should take time to educate themselves,” Lynam said.
With files from The Canadian Press.