Cyber Threats To Canada's Democratic Process

Overview Of Cyber Threats

The Internet age has ushered in new threats to the democratic process. Most social discourse related to the democratic process now occurs online. This includes email, tweets, websites, databases, computer networks, and many other information technologies used by voters, electoral bodies, political parties and politicians, and the media. Canada is among a large and growing group of states that must defend against adversaries using cyber capabilities to covertly influence all three aspects of the democratic process.

Adversaries are any states, groups, or individuals who have used or might use cyber capabilities to threaten or influence Canada’s democratic process. Some adversaries intentionally set out to covertlly influence a democratic process: these are strategic threats.

Other adversaries do not set out to influence the outcome of a democratic process, although this might occur as an unintended consequence: these are incidental threats. Those responsible for incidental threats are often simply casting a wide net, hoping to exploit an insecure network or database to earn some money or for the thrill of it. That their activities could affect the democratic process is simply coincidental.

To assess the cyber threats to the democratic process, CSE examined cyber threat activity against democratic processes worldwide over the past ten years. There are six types of adversaries that have undertaken activities to influence the democratic process, or have the capability to do so.

  • Nation-states are motivated by economic, ideological, and/or geopolitical interests.
  • Hacktivists are motivated by ideological issues.
  • Cybercriminals are motivated by financial profit.Endnote 5
  • Terrorist groups are motivated by violent extremist ideologies.
  • Political actors are motivated by winning political power domestically.
  • Thrill-seekers are individuals seeking reputational or personal satisfaction from successful hacking.

Figure 2: At a glance: Adversaries targeting Canada

Figure 2 - Description

  • Nation-states are motivated by economic, ideological, and/or geopolitical interests.
  • Hacktivists are motivated by ideological issues.
  • Cybercriminals are motivated by financial profit.
  • Terrorist groups are motivated by violent extremist ideologies.
  • Political actors are motivated by winning political power domestically.
  • Thrill-seekers are individuals seeking reputational or personal satisfaction from successful hacking.