Hackers got into the Canadian Treasury Board and Finance Department by spear phising, but were foiled by the country’s cyber security system. Stockwell Day, president of the Treasury Board commented:
"I wouldn't say it's the most aggressive, but it was a significant one -- significant that they were going after financial records. Every indication we have at this point is that our sensors and our cyber-protection systems got the alerts out in time, that the information doors were slammed shut."
The hackers tried impersonating bureaucrats via email accounts to rummage through and get passwords for the government’s computers, including a research agency within the Department of National Defense. The criminals apparently were not able to access any classified data.
Of timely concern is the preparation of the federal budget. Knowing the budgetary plans could potentially provide hackers with an advantage when predicting market movements. However, Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for the minister of public safety, told the Associated Press, “We have no indication that budget security has been compromised,"
Although it was claimed that the cyber attacks were traced to computer servers in China, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China was not involved, and that his country was also a victim of hacking. The hackers took control of computers used by senior department officials and generated messages that looked like they came from those officials to the departments’ information technology section.
The responses to those emails provided them with passwords and other information granted them further access. An employee who is deceived into opening an infected document may help hackers breach a protective firewall in the organization. PDF attachments also ran programs that searched for the necessary information and returned the results to the hackers.
Spearphising and its variations are the cause of many intrusions into computer networks. Supposedly, the hacking method was the same as the one used by a China-based espionage ring that stole information from the Indian Defense Ministry. University of Toronto researchers exposed that scheme. John Thompson, president of the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute, says it’s not just someone in an Internet café, but “you’re talking about hundreds of dedicated people who are as well-trained as a hacker to be in systemic attempts to probe government computers, corporate computers all over the world.”
Various reports indicate that the hackers were tracked to an Internet protocol address in China, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, and to computer servers in Beijing.
Rafal A. Rohozinski, who helped expose the previous episode Canada could determine if the attack actually originated in China or if the hackers had used Chinese servers to disguise their own location. He thinks that the attack did come from China but said that did not mean that the government sanctioned the intrusion.
China’s position on the matter is that the accusations about their involvement have an ulterior motive.
“Hacker attacks are a global concern of which China has also been a victim. The allegation that the Chinese government supports Internet hacking is groundless,” Zhaoxu said. “The Chinese government attaches importance to computer network security, and asks Internet users to abide by laws and regulations.” Cyber attacks are pervasive, a daily occurrence in Canada. In 2010, the Conservative government announced a $90-million plan to improve safeguards for government networks over the next five years
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