Top-secret documents obtained by the CBC show Canada’s electronic spy agency has developed a vast arsenal of cyberwarfare tools alongside its U.S. and British counterparts to hack into computers and phones in many parts of the world, including in friendly trade countries like Mexico and hotspots like the Middle East.
Some of the capabilities mirror what CSE’s U.S. counterpart, the NSA, can do under a powerful hacking program called QUANTUM, which was created by the NSA’s elite cyberwarfare unit, Tailored Access Operations, says Christopher Parsons, a post-doctoral fellow at the Citizen Lab, one of the groups CBC News asked to help decipher the CSE documents. QUANTUM is mentioned in the list of CSE cyber capabilities.
Publicizing details of QUANTUM’s attack techniques fuelled debate south of the border about the project’s constitutionality, says Parsons, who feels a debate is needed here in Canada as well.
“Our network has been turned into a battlefield without any Canadian being asked: Should it be done? How should it be done?” says Parsons.
“With Bill C-51, we’re seeing increased powers being provided to CSIS, and that could mean that they would be able to more readily use or exploit the latent domestic capabilities that CSE has built up,” says Parsons.