In The Media

Former CSIS director talks cyber-warfare in Calgary

by Ruwald de Fortier (feat. Richard Fadden)

April 4, 2018

The former head of Canada's spy agency said the country needs to be ready for cyber attacks of all kinds.

Richard Fadden, former CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) director and national security advisor to the Prime Minister delivered a luncheon speech Wednesday afternoon.

The luncheon was entitled Canada's 21st Century Security Challenges, and took place at the Calgary Petroleum Club in downtown Calgary. He covered the grounds of issues of national security of importance and relevance to Canadians today, in a way that he described as a practical approach.

The luncheon was organized and hosted by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, the CGAI.

On the topic of cyber-security threats, Fadden said there are three elements to them: cyber-war, cyber-terrorism, and cyber-propaganda.

He said that on cyber war, "we just haven’t fought our way through it yet.”

He said we still need to determine if closing down another country's electrical, or oil and gas infrastructure in the middle of winter through the use of cyber-devices would be an an act of war, when it absolutely would be if it were done physically.

“International law has not caught up with this issue yet, but it’s exactly what Russia’s done in two or three circumstances already,” he said, referring to alleged cyber-attacks that shut down infrastructure in Ukrainian cities and interfered with other aspects of life in other countries in Europe.

He said that it’s very much possible for a state to conduct such brutal cyber-attacks that would cause the “equivalent of what would be regarded as an act of war in the past,” and that other groups such as terrorist organizations are also capable of doing the same.

“We need to think about what that means, and if I could open a parenthesis, we should all think about how we defend ourselves in from that,” said Fadden.

Fadden said after the luncheon that cyber-security threats and attacks would apply more to the federal level of government and also to the private sector, but would also apply to the municipal sector and the provincial sector.

“The question though we need to ask is, for somebody who’s thinking of a cyber-attack, where would he or she look to find the information of most value,” he said.

"I don’t think it’s going to be from a small municipality in northern Alberta, the government of Alberta? They have a lot of information that’s useful about the industrial base and a whole bunch of things, and the federal government has even more,” said Fadden.

Fadden said that in order to better prepare ourselves for issues on cyber-security, that it’s all a matter of taking basic precautions wherever possible and constantly reassessing a fluctuating threat-level.

Fadden closed his speech by saying that foreign interference is a big issue, referring to instances of foreign interference, such as the United States’ 2016 presidential election.

“We need to have some way to deal with the increasingly assertive ability of other countries to interfere on our electoral process,” he said.

“It is a growing threat across the planet, and we need to find a way to deal with it,” said Fadden.

“He [Fadden] touched on a lot of very timely issues that don’t get attention that they should,” said Adam Frost, associate research and development coordinator for CGAI.

“These things do happen, and they affect countries and private entities as well,” he said.

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