Tony Clement, the President of the Treasury Board, reports that there was a cyber attack on the government of Canada’s computer servers Wednesday. A couple federal emails and the websites for various departments crashed, and now the controversial hacker group Anonymous is taking credit.
“Confirmed today that Govt of Canada GC servers have been cyber attacked. Until full service is restored please use 1-800-OCanada,” tweeted Clement. The attack included sites for Justice Public Works and Government Services, Shared Services Canada (the Canadian governments IT department), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and even Canada.ca.
Last Friday, employees of the House of Commons were warned that they, along with private sector workers, were “currently being targeted by several cyber attacks.” A memo was sent out Friday morning alerting workers of suspicious emails from possible hackers seeking personal information. A second memo was sent out later that evening clarifying that there was no evidence any personal data had been stolen from Commons accounts yet, however it was clear that they have been targeted. This was followed by a final memo urging workers not to hand out their passwords to anyone and to delete any suspicious-looking emails. They suspected hackers were ‘phising’ – sending messages that looked like they came from official accounts, but were instead a ploy to trick recipients into providing personal information.
Their reaction may seem a little paranoid, but the government of Canada has a good reason to be on edge. Last year, a phishing scandal that was seemingly state-sponsored gave Chinese hackers access to the systems of the National Research Council (NRC), causing the network to be shut down and run on a temporary system while a new $32.5 million network was created. Despite the NRC – which includes information for groups like Health Canada, the RCMP, and the Department of National Defence – already having the most complex and sensitive IT infrastructure in the country during this time, the new system had to be even better suited to withstand further attacks. The invasion was reportedly the work of “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor,” said the Treasury Board.
However in this case, the hacking barrage had a bold message behind it. Anonymous posted a YouTube video Wednesday, along with a statement explaining their reasoning – saying that the endeavour was a response to the government’s anti-terrorism Bill C-51, which was recently passed in Parliament. In the video, the group claims that the bill “is a clear violation of the universal declaration of human rights, as well as removing our legal protections that have shined and stood in the Magna Carta for years.” The bill has been dubbed the Anti-terrorism Act, but has already been met with mass criticism saying that it gives the government the ability to effectively label activists or any form of protest as terrorism, allowing them to be targeted without a permit or court order. While the underlying ideas of the bill suggest promoting safety and catching terrorists before they act, it simply gives government departments and agencies an unprecedented amount of power and opens the door to a NSA-like situation where the information of every Canadian citizen would be collected and stored.
A number of sites have since come back online and federal officials are looking into the source of the attack, however its unclear whether the DoS attacks have stopped, as some websites seem to flicker between online and offline periodically.
So what do you think, are Anonymous’ actions justified? Was a take-down of the Canadian government servers even necessary? I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t entirely aware of this recent bill or its shady wording until all of this happened, however its difficult to label yourself as the good guy when you’re constantly committing crimes. Regardless, Anonymous is encourages citizens everywhere to stand alongside them in protest.
See their video statement here: