Frequently Asked Questions

Other FAQ links:


1. What does CSE do?

The Communications Security Establishment is Canada's national cryptologic agency. As outlined in Part V.1 of the National Defence Act, the mandate of CSE is:

  1. to acquire and use information from the global information infrastructure for the purpose of providing foreign intelligence, in accordance with the Government of Canada intelligence priorities;
  2. to provide advice, guidance and services to help ensure the protection of electronic information and information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada; and
  3. to provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties.

2. When was CSE established?

CSE was formally established, by an Order-in-Council, in 1946 as the Communications Branch, National Research Council. In 1975, it was renamed the Communications Security Establishment and moved to the National Defence portfolio.

3. What role does CSE fulfill within the Government?

CSE provides foreign intelligence to a number of Government departments and agencies, including Foreign Affairs Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Department of National Defence. We also work with other Government departments, most notably Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat and Public Works and Government Services Canada, to ensure that the Government's communications are secure.

4. How does CSE advise the Government of Canada on the protection of electronic information and information structures?

CSE secures information against rapidly evolving threats that have the potential to compromise its confidentiality, availability, intended use, and value. CSE's Information Technology Security (IT Security) Program provides the Government of Canada with timely, credible insights and the technical leadership required to guide IT Security decisions.

5. What is the CSE Information Technology Security Learning Centre?

CSE's Information Technology Security Learning Centre provides Government of Canada Information Technology Security practitioners and program managers with education and training opportunities to help them understand and manage risks. By so doing, they enhance the security of Canada's information systems.

6. What kind of Information Technology Security services does CSE offer?

CSE's Information Technology Security program services include:

  • Threat and Vulnerability Analysis
  • Prediction, Prevention and Response to Cyber-security incidents
  • IT Security Services Architecture and Engineering
  • Certification and Accreditation
  • Industry Program for Information Technology Security Assurance
  • Training and Awareness Programs
  • Support for IT Security Policy and Standards Development

7. Who are CSE's Information Technology Security clients?

Primary Information Technology Security clients include members of Canada's Security and Intelligence community as well as federal law enforcement and national defence agencies such as Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Department of National Defence (DND), Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Privy Council Office (PCO), Public Safety Canada (PS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS).

8. How does CSE provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies?

CSE's expert understanding of the global information infrastructure is a resource that is helpful to law enforcement and security intelligence organizations in the performance of their lawful duties.

CSE may, for example, assist with the decryption of communications that these organizations have collected under their own authorities. It may also provide advice and training and, in certain cases, share equipment.

9. What kind of "communications" does CSE collect? Do "communications" refer just to telephone calls? Is an e-mail a "communication"?

CSE collects foreign communications signals. A communication, for CSE's purposes, is any information carried on the global information infrastructure, which would include electronic emissions, communications systems, Information Technology systems and networks, and the data and technical information on or related to those systems. E-mail, therefore, is considered to be a "communication".

10. What safeguards are in place to ensure that CSE's activities are legal and respect the privacy of Canadians?

CSE has in-house legal counsel from the Department of Justice to advise on the legality of proposed operations prior to their implementation.

In addition, the CSE Commissioner independently reviews CSE's activities to ensure that they comply with the law. The Commissioner produces an annual public report on his findings, and this report is tabled in Parliament. CSE is also bound by protective mechanisms entrenched in legislation, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Human Rights Act, the Privacy Act and the Criminal Code.

Like other government organizations, CSE is subject to periodic examination by the Auditor General, the Privacy Commissioner and the Information Commissioner.

11. What is the nature of CSE's relationship with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)?

CSE provides foreign intelligence as well as technical and operational assistance to CSIS. Since September 11, 2001, our two agencies have intensified collaboration, consistent with our respective mandates, most notably in the area of counter-terrorism.

12. Who are CSE's foreign partners? What does it share with them?

CSE has close relationships with partner agencies in the United States (National Security Agency), Great Britain (Government Communications Headquarters), Australia (Australian Signals Directorate) and New Zealand (Government Communications Security Bureau). Cooperation covers several key areas, including intelligence sharing, information protection and research and development.

13. Does CSE target Canadians?

No. CSE's mandate involves the collection of foreign signals intelligence and the protection of the computer systems and networks of the Government of Canada from mischief, unauthorized use and interference. When fulfilling either of these mandates, CSE does not direct its activities at Canadians, Canadians abroad or any persons in Canada. In fact, CSE is prohibited by law from directing its activities at Canadians anywhere or at anyone in Canada.

14. In sharing intelligence with your partners, can CSE guarantee that the private information and identities of Canadians are protected?

CSE's legislation requires it to have strict measures in place to protect the privacy of Canadians. Those measures extend to the sharing of information with allies. Moreover, CSE continually refines the precision of its operations to ensure it identifies and collects only the information it needs. The CSE Commissioner reviews these activities.

15. What is cryptology?

Cryptography is the science that creates those cryptosystems while cryptanalysis is the art of unraveling or breaking such systems, that is, reading them even if one is not the intended recipient. The term cryptology is used to encompass both cryptography and cryptanalysis.

16. What is signals intelligence, or "SIGINT"?

SIGINT is a word used to refer to Signals Intelligence- the foreign electronic emissions collected by CSE. SIGINT is used to produce the intelligence reporting that responds to Canadian government requirements.

The success of the SIGINT process is founded on CSE's understanding of the key technologies used within the global information infrastructure.

17. How can I apply for a job at CSE?

If you would like information on careers at CSE, or are interested in applying for a position, please visit the careers section of this web site.