Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to a caucus meeting in West block, Wednesday, December 11, 2019 in Ottawa. Federal cabinet ministers now have their own special hotline to report suspected hacking incidents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Trudeau cabinet ministers get special hacker hotline to report suspected breaches

The hotline is operated by the Ottawa-based Centre for Cyber Security

Federal cabinet ministers now have their own special hotline to report suspected hacking incidents.

Officials at the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security set up the round-the-clock telephone service last year to respond swiftly to possible security breaches, newly released documents show.

The hotline, one of several protective measures for ministers, is an indication of how seriously the government takes the prospect of a cyberattack on cabinet members.

The phone service is a “front-line response to address compromise and limit damage,” says a confidential information circular for ministers.

The hotline is operated by the Ottawa-based Centre for Cyber Security, a division of the Communications Security Establishment, the federal government’s electronic spy service.

The centre has access to a cabinet member’s deputy minister and departmental security officer, the House of Commons and online service providers, the circular adds, and can lock down or help regain control of accounts.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain a copy of the circular, portions of which were withheld due to the sensitivity of the subject.

It was part of a briefing package on ministerial security prepared last August for Privy Council clerk Ian Shugart by Greta Bossenmaier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser at the time.

Since publication of the CSE’s 2017 report on threats to Canada’s democratic process, political parties, candidates and their staff have continued to be targeted worldwide by cyberthreats, the agency said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

In advance of the October federal election, the CSE and its Centre for Cyber Security decided to offer cabinet ministers the 24/7 hotline service, and it “is still operational today,” the cyberspy agency said.

The centre provided online security guidance to ministers at a briefing last March and all cabinet members subsequently registered for the hotline service, Shugart was advised in August.

Ministers are supposed to call the hotline immediately if they suspect a compromise of their ministerial, parliamentary or personal email, or their social-media accounts, the information circular says.

Operators “who have an awareness of your online footprint” are ready to help deal with any breach and contain the fallout.

The CSE and the centre provided a similar service for political parties, but only during the election campaign.

“Due to operational security reasons, we are unable provide a specific breakdown of the incidents reported through the hotline, but we can confirm that the service was used effectively by ministers, as well as political parties throughout the 2019 general election,” the CSE said.

“As per Cyber Centre standard policy, we do not comment on specific meetings with individual political parties, candidates and their staff, nor do we comment on any specific incident.”

For both the pre-election cabinet and the current one, the Privy Council Office co-ordinated a briefing for ministers’ chiefs of staff on cybersecurity and other protective services, attended by representatives from the CSE and RCMP.

In addition, following the October election, all ministers received “tailored, individual briefings” in which the security programs were discussed, the PCO said.

ALSO READ: Conservatives press Trudeau on alleged Chinese role in hack of Canadian data

ALSO READ: Port Alberni teen runner challenges Trudeau to race

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Justin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Update: Coquihalla re-opens, after incident requiring a medevac

DriveBC warns of continued delays and congestion

COVID-19 case confirmed at restaurant in Cache Creek: Interior Health

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

Shots fired in Abbotsford, but no victims or suspects found

Incident occurs Tuesday afternoon at Whatcom and Old Yale roads

Family medicine still available just different in the age of COVID-19

Local health officials send reminder that doctors are still providing care, by phone or video chat

Mayor reacts to suggestion to ship those in quarantine from the DTES to Chilliwack

‘People do best when they stay where they have supports already in place,’ stated Chilliwack mayor

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Feds amplify stay-home message as cost of financial aid to Canadians mounts

Liberals have unveiled around $200B in direct financial aid and tax deferrals

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Most Read