Protecting Canada’s electronic information and computer networks
In addition to our foreign signals intelligence mandate (Part A) and our assistance mandate (Part C), CSE also provides advice, guidance and services to help ensure the protection of electronic information and of information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada. This is Part B of our mandate under the National Defence Act.
What does that mean?
CSE has internationally recognized cyber and technical expertise which enables us to respond to threats and attacks against government computer networks and systems, and the important information they contain.
We help protect our systems from foreign states, hackers, and criminals. We track threats from around the world, we monitor government networks to detect cyber threats, and we work with government departments to defend and strengthen systems that have been compromised. We help protect information of value to the government, including personal information, from theft.
With this important mandate, CSE also plays a critical role in the implementation of Canada’s Cyber Security Strategy, which has three objectives:
- Securing government systems;
- Working with the private sector and governments to protect critical infrastructure; and
- Helping Canadians to be secure online.
How are Canadian networks at risk?
Cyber threats — including foreign states, hacktivists, criminals, and terrorists — continually probe government systems, looking for vulnerabilities in order to gain access to a computer. Once they have access, threat actors can steal or distort the information stored on it, corrupt its operations or program it to exploit other computers and the systems to which it is connected.
Government networks are an attractive target for adversaries for many reasons:
- They house information about the ways in which our government operates.
- They hold trade secrets, intellectual property and valuable data related to our economy.
- They are crucial in protecting the lives of our foreign service, military and law enforcement personnel.
- They contain the personal information of Canadians who rely on these networks for access to government services such as tax returns, employment insurance and passports—information that needs and deserves to be protected.
Cyber-incidents against Government of Canada systems have happened before. In 2011, the systems of Finance Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat experienced unauthorized cyber intrusions. CSE worked with both departments to limit the damage, and address the vulnerabilities in their systems. The result: more robust, secure systems, and better protected information.
Government of Canada networks by the numbers:
- More than 57,000 servers
- 9,000 internet connections
Canadian networks need to be secured from adversaries and the Government of Canada must protect personal information. Securing these systems is not simply a matter of operational efficiency; it is a matter of national security, sovereignty and privacy protection.
How does CSE defend Canadian networks?
CSE’s role in ensuring cyber security includes the following: