In an internal report obtained by the Toronto Star, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) explains that the spy agency cannot keep up with threats from state-sponsored hackers. CSIS said that the “scale of the threat has fast outpaced (their) capacity,” and the agency has been required to “prioritize” their efforts. In separate reports, CSIS also told Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney that the targeting of Canadian public and private networks is an attempt to advance the “economic, military, and political agendas” of hostile states that sponsor these hackers.

In particular, CSIS highlighted attacks on government officials and systems as a significant threat. In 2014, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) named China as the state sponsor of a cyberattack on the National Research Council (NRC), Canada’s federal research and development agency.

Citizen Lab Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Parsons told the Toronto Star that the internal report, along with cases like the cyber attack of the NRC by Chinese sponsored hackers, points to the militarization of the Internet. Rather than being unique to CSIS, Parsons said that “Canada is hardly alone as the target — or originator — of state-sponsored hacking.” Given the widespread prevalence of state cyber attacks, Parsons called for a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes legitimate use of state Internet capabilities, both offensively and defensively.

“The internet has become militarized behind the backs of most citizens, and I think that if we’re not going to roll back that militarization entirely . . . at the very least principled agreements about what are legitimate and illegitimate modes of militarization have to be established,” Parsons said.

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