Canada can expect election meddling, but not on scale seen in U.S., spies warn

The Communications Security Establishment released an assessment on the upcoming federal election

A voter casts a ballot in the 2011 federal election in Toronto on May 2, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Canadian voters will very likely experience some kind of online foreign interference related to the coming federal election, a new report from the national cyberspy agency warns.

But the agency says the meddling is unlikely to be on the scale of Russian interference against the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

READ MORE: Ottawa moves to clamp down on potential meddling in next federal election

In an assessment released on Monday, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment says that last year half of all advanced democracies holding national elections were targeted by cyberthreat activity.

It’s a threefold increase since 2015, and the Ottawa-based CSE expects the upward trend to continue this year.

The report suggests Canada can expect foreign adversaries to try to sway voters by focusing on polarizing social and political issues, promoting the popularity of one party over another, or trying to shape the public statements and policy choices of a candidate.

Malign actors also use cybertools to target the websites, email, social-media accounts, networks and devices of political parties, candidates and their staff, the report adds.

The CSE’s assessment, an update of a pathbreaking effort two years ago, is being presented at a news conference this morning by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould.

It comes just six months before Canadians head to the ballot box in a federal election.

Electoral processes around the world have been targeted by cyberthreat activity in recent years, the CSE says.

“However, as we noted in 2017, 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 very robust protections against attempts to covertly change the official vote count.”

It is likely, however, that adversaries will try to deface websites or steal personal information that could be used to send out incorrect information to Canadians, causing some kind of disruption to the election process, the report says.

The aim of such activity would be to “sow doubt among voters,” making them question the election’s legitimacy or discouraging them from even taking part.

Nefarious actors hijack Twitter accounts or open new ones that tweet about popular subjects like sports or entertainment to gain followers, the CSE notes. “However, these accounts then switch to political messaging with Canadian themes following international events involving Canada.”

The report cites a 2016 episode in which false information appeared online about a “failed Canadian raid” against Russian separatist positions in Ukraine, alleging that 11 Canadian military personnel were killed. People shared an English-language version of the item over 3,000 times on Facebook.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Language course helps to revitalize Okanagan First Nation language

“Learning a Language: nsyilxcən for Everyone” course kicks off in Kelowna on Feb. 4

Peachland looks to hire climate action coordinator

Coordinator would help city reach its carbon reduction goals

Flooding water at West Kelowna Tim Hortons closes lane on Highway 97

This story has been updated with more accurate information. Water flooding from… Continue reading

Okanagan team leads animal rescue efforts in Australia

Brad Pattison’s team arrived in Sydney on Monday

Pedestrian struck in front of West Kelowna Walmart

Paramedics and emergency crews responded to the call around 1:30 p.m. Friday

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

Avalanche danger closes Highway 1 near Chase

The highway is closed in both directions east of Chase

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Melted snow uncovers problematic potholes in Vernon

Temperature swings, precipitation behind cracked pavement, city says

Alumni trumpet band strikes emotional chord for Vernon girls

Vernon Girls Trumpet Band will be tooting their horn for the 60th Winter Carnival parade

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Most Read