Canada’s National Security Consultation: Digital Anonymity & Subscriber Identification Revisited… Yet Again – Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Over at Technology, Thoughts, and Trinkets I’ve written that:

Last month, Public Safety Canada followed through on commitments to review and consult on Canada’s national security framework. The process reviews powers that were passed into law following the passage of Bill C-51, Canada’s recent controversial anti-terrorism overhaul, as well as invite a broader debate about Canada’s security apparatus. While many consultation processes have explored expansions of Canada’s national security framework, the current consultation constitutes the first modern day attempt to explore Canada’s national security excesses and deficiencies. Unfortunately, the framing of the consultation demonstrates minimal direct regard for privacy and civil liberties because it is primarily preoccupied with defending the existing security framework while introducing a range of additional intrusive powers. Such powers include some that have been soundly rejected by the Canadian public as drawing the wrong balance between digital privacy and law enforcement objectives, and heavily criticized by legal experts as well as by all of Canada’s federal and provincial privacy commissioners.

The government has framed the discussion in two constituent documents, a National Security Green Paper and an accompanying Background Document. The government’s framings of the issues are highly deficient. Specifically, the consultation documents make little attempt to explain the privacy and civil liberties implications that can result from the contemplated powers. And while the government is open to suggestions on privacy and civil liberties-enhancing measures, few such proposals are explored in the document itself. Moreover, key commitments, such as the need to impose judicial control over Canada’s foreign intelligence agency (CSE) and regulate the agency’s expansive metadata surveillance activities, are neither presented nor discussed (although the government has mentioned independently that it still hopes to introduce such reforms). The consultation documents also fail to provide detailed suggestions for improving government accountability and transparency surrounding state agencies’ use of already-existent surveillance and investigative tools.

In light of these deficiencies, we will be discussing a number of the consultation document’s problematic elements in a series of posts, beginning with the government’s reincarnation of a highly controversial telecommunication subscriber identification power.

I wrote the first of what will be many analyses of the Canadian government’s national security consultation with a good friend and colleague, Tamir Israel.

The subscriber identification powers we write about are not really intended for national security but will, instead, be adopted more broadly by law enforcement so they can access the data indiscriminately. Past legislative efforts have rejected equivalent powers: it remains to be seen if the proposal will (once more) be successfully rejected, or whether this parliament will actually establish some process or law that lets government agencies get access to subscriber identification information absent a warrant.


Ottawa’s ‘secret network’ in question following alleged hack

Ottawa’s ‘secret network’ in question following alleged hack:

OTTAWA — The integrity of a federal “secret network” launched last year at a cost of millions to taxpayers is in question following an alleged hack this week that resulted in highly sensitive information becoming public.

It is possible, of course, to maintain the integrity of a network regardless of the number of people authorized for access, said Christopher Parsons, a fellow with the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

It’s just difficult, he said.

“The goal with these secured networks is to keep classified material in the classified space,” Parsons said in an interview. “If that firewall is maintained between classified and unclassified material, the number of people doesn’t immediately cause a problem.”

The potential for problems arises, however, when a weak link presents itself —and the more people brought in, the higher the chance a weak link will show up, Parsons explained, speaking broadly of classification and secure-network issues.

“It’s just the fact of the matter that the more people you have on any of these networks, the higher the chance someone accidentally moves a document where they weren’t supposed to, or intentionally moves a document somewhere they weren’t supposed to, or, in a worst case scenario, there’s an insider threat,” he said.

Based on the bit of information available at this point on this week’s incident, which comes mostly from Anonymous, it’s difficult to say whether the document was made available through a leak or a hack, Parsons said before offering five hypotheses making their way around:

The first is that some individuals found a way to remove redactions on a previously released document. Secondly, it’s feasible someone within Treasury Board accidentally shared the file through a program, innocuously moving it from the classified to unclassified network. The third possibility is similar, only the move from a secure to un-secure environment was intentional.

Another option still is that an employee’s laptop or device was infected with malware.

“Or, it could be, legitimately, the individuals calling themselves Anonymous this time successfully penetrated some element of the Treasury Board’s network,” Parsons said.

“Some of the government’s Crown Jewels lie in the Treasury Board’s networks. Having unauthorized parties within them would be a serious breach of not just cyber security, but national security … If one party is doing it, there’s no reason to think another party, like a foreign government isn’t doing the same thing.”



CSIS can’t keep up with ‘daily’ state-sponsored cyber attacks | Toronto Star

CSIS can’t keep up with ‘daily’ state-sponsored cyber attacks:

OTTAWA—Canada’s spies admit they can’t keep up with daily cyber attacks from state-sponsored hackers, according to an internal report obtained by the Star.

Christopher Parsons at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said the documents point to a larger conflict that’s largely been taking place behind the scenes — the militarization of the Internet.

“Canada is hardly alone as the target — or originator — of state-sponsored hacking,” Parsons said.

As countries, including Canada, continue to develop both offensive and defensive Internet capabilities, he said it’s become urgent to come to an international consensus of what counts as legitimate targets in the Internet age.

“The internet has become militarized behind the backs of most citizens, and I think that if we’re not going to roll back that militarization entirely … at the very least principled agreements about what are legitimate and illegitimate modes of militarization have to be established,” Parsons said.