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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | OCTOBER 2021 EDITION
National Cyber Threat Assessment
CURRENT COMMUNITY STORIES
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Published May 2021



It is sad that we feel compelled to present this piece as our goal is to spread His Good News to readers of Christian Life in London. However, as detailed in a recent CIBC e-seminar we recently attended, threats to business and individuals are increasing at an exponential rate, resulting in huge financial losses, identity theft and damage to one’s reputation.

Please take time to read the following article : CYBER THREATS TO CANADIAN INDIVIDUALS produced by the Canadian Centre For Cyber Security. The full document is available for viewing and downloading by clicking HERE Taking the steps suggested may save you and your family from the hardship these crimes are intended to inflict.

As Canadians rely more and more on cyber technology in our daily lives, protecting our cyber safety is essential.

The number of Canadians reporting cyber-related incidents continues to rise and cybercrime results in $3 billion in economic losses each year.

Canadian individuals and organizations In a COVID-19 context, the use of digital technology trend has accelerated to enable Canadians to work, shop, and socialize remotely in accordance with public health physical distancing guidelines. However, as devices, information, and activities move online, they are vulnerable to cyber threat actors.

Cyber threat actors pose a threat to the Canadian economy by exacting costs on individuals and organizations, notably through the theft of intellectual property and proprietary information. They threaten the privacy of Canadians through the theft of personal information, which facilitates additional criminal behaviour including identity theft and financial fraud. As physical infrastructure and processes continue to be connected to the Internet, cyber threat activity has followed, leading to increasing risk to the functioning of machinery and the safety of Canadians.

KEY JUDGEMENTS

  • The number of cyber threat actors is rising, and they are becoming more sophisticated. The commercial sale of cyber tools coupled with a global pool of talent has resulted in more threat actors and more sophisticated threat activity. Illegal online markets for cyber tools and services have also allowed cybercriminals to conduct more complex and sophisticated campaigns.
  • Cybercrime continues to be the cyber threat that is most likely to affect Canadians and Canadian organizations. We assess that, almost certainly, over the next two years, Canadians and Canadian organizations will continue to face online fraud and attempts to steal personal, financial, and corporate information.
  • We judge that ransomware directed against Canada will almost certainly continue to target large enterprises and critical infrastructure providers. These entities cannot tolerate sustained disruptions and are willing to pay up to millions of dollars to quickly restore their operations. Many Canadian victims will likely continue to give in to ransom demands due to the severe costs of losing business and rebuilding their networks and the potentially destructive consequences of refusing payment.
  • While cybercrime is the most likely threat, the state- sponsored programs of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest strategic threats to Canada. State-sponsored cyber activity is generally the most sophisticated threat to Canadians and Canadian organizations.
  • State-sponsored actors are very likely attempting to develop cyber capabilities to disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure, such as the supply of electricity, to further their goals. We judge that it is very unlikely, however, that cyber threat actors will intentionally seek to disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure and cause major damage or loss of life in the absence of international hostilities. Nevertheless, cyber threat actors may target critical Canadian organizations to collect information, pre-position for future activities, or as a form of intimidation.
  • State-sponsored actors will almost certainly continue to conduct commercial espionage against Canadian businesses, academia, and governments to steal Canadian intellectual property and proprietary information. We assess that these threat actors will almost certainly continue attempting to steal intellectual property related to combatting COVID-19 to support their own domestic public health responses or to profit from its illegal reproduction by their own firms. The threat of cyber espionage is almost certainly higher for Canadian organizations that operate abroad or work directly with foreign state-owned enterprises.
  • Online foreign influence campaigns are almost certainly ongoing and not limited to key political events like elections. Online foreign influence activities are a new normal, and adversaries seek to influence domestic events as well as impact international discourse related to current events. We assess that, relative to some other countries, Canadians are lower-priority targets for online foreign influence activity. However, Canada’s media ecosystem is closely intertwined with that of the United States and other allies, which means that when their populations are targeted, Canadians become exposed to online influence as a type of collateral damage.

TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING SOCIETY AND ALTERING THE THREAT LANDSCAPE

  • Technological Changes Spur Societal Changes
    Canadians are increasingly reliant on the Internet. More and more important day-to-day activities, such as banking, government services, health services, commerce, and education, have moved online for convenience and efficiency. In today’s COVID-19 context, this trend has accelerated to allow Canadians to work, shop, and socialize remotely in accordance with public health physical distancing guidelines. These changes are driven by emerging and maturing technologies, which continue to create new ways to use the Internet that improve standards of living and change how individuals and organizations interact.

    Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and cloud computing underpin a wide range of personal, commercial, and industrial activities. Advancements in the next two years in these and other information technologies, such as the roll out of 5G global wireless telecommunications, will change how Canadians do business, operate industrial plants, buy and obtain consumer goods, receive medical care, and more. In turn, Canadians will continue to see changes in other areas of their lives, including the design of cities and modes of transportation and the undertaking of elections and other democratic processes.
  • The Threat Landscape
    As devices, information, and activities valued by Canadian individuals and organizations are moved online, they become susceptible to threat activity. Cyber threat actors—particularly cybercriminals and state-sponsored actors—continue to adapt their activities to find information that Canadians value and attempt to obtain it, hold it for ransom, or destroy it.

    We judge that cybercriminals, who are motivated by financial gain, almost certainly represent the most pervasive cyber threat to Canadians. They conduct the most threat activities against Canadians, including ransomware attacks, theft of personal, financial, and confidential information, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. As discussed below, illegal markets for cyber products and services allow cybercriminals to access more sophisticated cyber tools.

    However, the most sophisticated capabilities belong to state- sponsored cyber threat actors who are motivated by economic, ideological, and geopolitical goals. Their activities include cyber espionage, intellectual property theft, online influence operations, and disruptive cyber attacks.

    We assess that almost certainly the state-sponsored programs of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest state-sponsored cyber threats to Canadian individuals and organizations. However, many other states are rapidly developing their own cyber programs, benefiting from various legal and illegal markets to purchase cyber products and services.

    Activities by hacktivists or thrill-seekers almost certainly pose a less common and less sophisticated threat to Canadians. In general, activities by both hacktivists and thrill-seekers are less common than other types of activity, and these threat actors often have fewer resources to devote to their activities, limiting the sophistication of their operations. Hacktivists have conducted newsworthy cyber activities in 2020. One of these incidents primarily targeted US victims but also impacted entities in Canada, exposing data belonging to 38 Canadian police agencies.
  • Below we identify five trends that will drive the evolution of the cyber landscape and threat activity.

MORE PHYSICAL SAFETY OF CANADIANS IS BEING PUT AT RISK

The safety of Canadians depends on critical infrastructure (e.g., energy, water), as well as consumer and medical goods (e.g., cars, home security systems, pacemakers, etc.), many of which are controlled by computers embedded within them. Increasingly, these computers are being connected to the Internet by their manufacturers, sometimes unbeknownst to consumers, to enable new features or provide data to a third party. However, once connected, these infrastructures and goods are susceptible to cyber threat activity, and maintaining their security requires investments over time from manufacturers and owners that can be difficult to sustain.

An important part of this trend is operational technology (OT), which is a broad term that refers to technology used to control physical processes such as dam openings, boiler activities, electricity conduction, and pipeline operations. In contrast with Information Technology (IT)—such as hardware and software found in most homes and organizations—OT has been relatively protected from cyber threat activity, because it was not originally designed to be connected to the Internet. However, manufacturers are now converging IT and OT. These changes are meant to increase efficiency and support long-term planning, but they also increase the risk of cyber threat activity reaching OT systems. A 2019 survey found that 68% of manufacturers plan to increase their investment in IT-OT convergence solutions for their organizations over the next two years. We assess that, almost certainly, the most pressing threats to the physical safety of Canadians are to OT and critical infrastructure. However, in the future, targeting of smart cities and IoT devices such as personal medical devices and Internet-connected vehicles, may also put Canadians at risk.

MORE ECONOMIC VALUE IS BEING PUT AT RISK

As we noted in NCTA 2018, state- sponsored cyber threat actors and cybercriminals continue to exact costs from Canadian individuals and businesses and damage the economy. Cybercriminals defraud individuals and companies and extort money from them through ransomware, and state-sponsored threat actors steal intellectual property and proprietary business information. Additionally, an increasing number of Canadians have moved their financial activity online, thereby increasing their susceptibility and attractiveness to cybercriminals. In 2019, 94% of Canadians had home Internet access (up from 79% in 2010) and 71% of Canadians banked online (up from 67% in 2010).

Due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians have shifted quickly and significantly towards remote work arrangements. They are accessing intellectual property and other sensitive data using personal devices and home Wi-Fi networks that are often poorly secured in comparison to corporate IT infrastructure. The protection of intellectual property is crucial to the productivity and competitiveness of Canadian companies, and vital for Canada’s economic growth and national defence. Certain countries continue to use advanced cyber espionage programs to obtain unfair advantages in the global marketplace and to improve their military technology. Commercial cyber espionage against Canadian companies is ongoing across a range of fields including aviation, technology and AI, energy, and biopharmaceuticals.

MORE COLLECTED DATA INCREASES PRIVACY RISK

Canadians generate an incredible amount of data about their locations, shopping habits, patterns of life, and personal health when they use their phones and computers, bank and shop online, wear their smart watches and fitness trackers, arm their home security systems, or monitor their insulin levels with smart medical devices. As Canadians generate, store, and share more personal information online, this data becomes vulnerable to cyber threat actors via breaches or misuse by the companies or foreign governments that collect it. The growth in Internet-connected devices has also added to the amount of data collected on Canadians. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) recorded 680 data breaches impacting 28 million Canadians in the year ending on 1 November 2019.

Meanwhile, advances in data science make it more difficult to maintain data anonymity and privacy protections. These technological advances can allow information that was previously anonymous to be linked to other datasets and de-anonymized. Data privacy is an issue of importance for Canadians. A study commissioned by the OPC found that 92% of Canadians expressed concern about the protection of their privacy, with 37% stating that they were extremely concerned.

ADVANCED CYBER TOOLS AND SKILLS ACCESSIBLE TO MORE THREAT ACTORS

An Increasing Commercial Market for Cyber Tools and Talent
The commercial sale of cyber tools coupled with a global pool of talent has resulted in more threat actors and more sophisticated threat activity, which increases the challenges inherent in identifying, attributing, and defending against cyber threat activity. Commercial markets for tools and talent have resulted in a shortening of the time it takes for a state to build a cyber program and an increase in the number of states with cyber programs. The Council on Foreign Relations maintains a growing list of countries suspected of sponsoring cyber operations since 2005. The current list stands at 33 countries.

The global market for cyber products and services is projected to grow from approximately $204 billion CAD in 2018 to $334 billion CAD in 2023.8 State-sponsored threat actors are recruiting skilled expatriates with lucrative salaries as a way to rapidly develop their national cyber programs. This is a significant change from when states had to develop their own cyber talent pipeline and build their own tools.

INTERNET AT A CROSSROADS

Internet Governance
Many states are pushing hard to change the accepted approach to Internet governance from the multi-stakeholder approach to one of state sovereignty. They view ideas and information primarily through the lenses of domestic stability and national security and want an Internet that will allow them to track their citizens and censor information. Some of these regimes use the Internet to quell protests, arrest dissidents, feed their citizens misinformation, and surveil them.10 The leaders of the state-sovereignty governance model, China and Russia, continue to push their agenda in international forums such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and other UN bodies, via policy proposals and technical standards proposals. Technical standards can have extraordinary real-world implications, as can be seen in the New Internet Protocol (NIP) proposal made by China and Chinese telecommunications companies, as the NIP would fundamentally transform the way the Internet works. The NIP would provide certain cyber security advantages, but it would enable powerful censorship, surveillance, and state control.

Historically, the dominant approach to Internet governance has been the multi-stakeholder approach championed by Canada and like- minded countries, that includes wide participation from governments, industry, civil society, and academia meeting across a range of bodies that establish technical and policy guidelines. This approach views the Internet as a global development tool that must balance universal access and interoperability with privacy and security.

Online Foreign Influence
As we noted in our Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process Assessment, adversaries use online influence to further their core interests, which typically consist of national security, economic prosperity, and ideological goals. Online foreign influence activities have become a new normal, and adversaries seek to influence domestic events like elections as well as impact international discourse related to current events. Online democratic engagement requires a fair, open Internet, free from manipulation by foreign actors. An increasing number of states have developed cyber tools and are using them to carry out large-scale online influence activities. They exploit social media and legitimate advertising and information-sharing tools to reach a large audience and make their messaging more effective.

Deepfake technology—allowing the creation of realistic-looking videos of events and public figures—adds another layer of uncertainty and confusion for the targets of disinformation campaigns. Deepfake technology has developed rapidly, with the industry expanding to include various face swapping applications, products that can produce a video of a full person from scratch13, and audio deepfake software that is capable of cloning existing human voices.

CYBER THREATS TO CANADIAN INDIVIDUALS

Canadians are putting more of their personal information online, and they increasingly depend on Internet-connected devices for communication, finances, entertainment, comfort, and safety. As technology and habits change, cyber threat actors adapt quickly to take advantage of new opportunities and keep pace with current events, including modifying cyber threat activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadians continue to fall victim to online fraud schemes. As mentioned in NCTA 2018, we assess that cybercrime will almost certainly continue to be the cyber threat that Canadians are most likely to encounter. Since NCTA 2018, cyber threat actors have improved their ability to keep scams relevant and appealing by associating their cyber fraud operations with current events. Elections, tax season, and trending news stories have all been used as a backdrop for cybercrime. For example, threat actors have leveraged the COVID-19 pandemic to trick victims into clicking on malicious links and attachments. Cyber threat actors also steal financial, medical, and other personal information to sell online or use in cybercrimes. Large corporate data breaches impact millions of customers and reveal personal information that can be used in follow-on crimes.

Canadians also continue to be subjected to online foreign influence operations that seek to influence Canadian public opinion and political discourse. Finally, evolving technologies like IoT medical devices, Internet-connected vehicles, and smart home security systems provide new targets for cyber threat actors to threaten the physical safety of Canadians.

Figure 1: Canadian Internet Usage, from 2018 Canadian Internet Use Survey by Statistics Canada15, 2019 CIRA Internet Factbook 16, and forecasts of the International Data Corporation



As predicted in NCTA 2018, over the last two years, we have observed increasingly sophisticated cyber fraud and extortion attempts directed at Canadians. We assess that this trend will almost certainly continue, facilitated by cybercrime marketplaces that enable threat actors to purchase cybercrime tools and services.

FRAUD AND EXTORTION
One way that cyber threat actors conduct fraud is by posing as legitimate organizations, such as government institutions, banks, or law firms to trick Canadians into clicking on malicious links or attachments which download malware onto their devices. For example, scammers create fake websites and online ads that offer cheap immigration services or may even guarantee high paying jobs for new immigrants. Many of the websites look like official government sites but require the victim to pay a fee to access “important forms”. Since March 2020, the Cyber Centre has worked with partners to take down over 3,500 websites, social media accounts, and email servers that were fraudulently representing the Government of Canada.

Cyber threat actors also extort money from victims by threatening cyber attacks or by stealing or claiming to have stolen incriminating information from victims. Threat actors also create fake profiles on social media and dating websites, which they use to lure victims into an online relationship that facilitates extortion and fraud. In some cases, they obtain intimate videos of their victim and then threaten to send the video to the victim’s contacts unless they receive payment.

Figure 2: The Elements of Malicious Communication



THREATS TO PRIVACY
In NCTA 2018, we described how financial and personal information is attractive to cybercriminals and how they can exploit stolen information for financial gain. This remains true, but the threat has increased due to the growing quantity of information that is stored online as well as improvements in data science that enable new methods for exploiting stolen personal, financial, and even medical information.

In addition, cybercriminals are not the only cyber threat actors interested in this data: state-sponsored actors have also been observed compromising large databases to advance national priorities.

Financial Information
As more information is shared and stored online, the threat to individual privacy increases. Data breaches threaten the financial information of Canadians that is held by businesses which fall prey to cyber threat actors. Stealing personal and financial information from Canadians is profitable for cybercriminals, and we assess that it will likely increase in the next two years.

Cybercriminals profit by obtaining login credentials, credit card details, and other personal information and then using this information to steal money, commit fraud, or sell it on cybercrime marketplaces. In June 2019, the data breach of Canadian financial services company Desjardins affected the records of 4.2 million of its Canadian customers. Personal information including names and birthdates, social insurance numbers, contact information, and banking details were compromised.

A similar event against another financial institution, Capital One, occurred in March 2019, exposing the personal information of 6 million Canadian customers. The stolen data included personal information in addition to credit scores, transaction data, and bank account numbers.

CRYPTOCURRENCY AND CRYPTOJACKING
Cybercriminals use malware to take unauthorized control of the processing power of computers to generate or “mine” cryptocurrency. This is called cryptojacking. Out-of-date or unpatched systems are particularly vulnerable to cryptojacking and some owners may be completely unaware that their device has been compromised, while others may experience slower performance or a rapidly drained battery.

As we predicted in the 2018 NCTA, we have seen cybercriminals continue to develop and deploy malware in cryptojacking operations. We assess that this activity will very likely continue in the next two years, with activity levels linked to the fluctuations in cryptocurrency values.

Medical and Personal Data
In 2019, medical laboratory testing firm LifeLabs was the victim of a cyber breach that compromised the sensitive personal and medical information of 15 million Canadians before the lab paid a ransom to retrieve the information. Threat actors, particularly state-sponsored cyber actors, are using data science to make better use of large datasets. They can identify, profile, and track individuals by combining and de-anonymizing data from multiple datasets.

Stolen personal data can be used by cyber threat actors for credential stuffing, where large numbers of compromised pairs of usernames and passwords are entered into websites in the hopes that one will match an existing account on the site. Stolen personal data can include credentials that allow this type of activity as well as access to the answers to personal security questions, rendering this protection ineffective. After collecting data from multiple breaches, cybercriminals may be able to combine the available personal information on an individual and more effectively target cyber threat activity.

CAPITAL ONE AND MARRIOTT BREACHES
The accumulation of data attracts both cybercriminals and state-sponsored cyber threat actors. In 2019, a cybercriminal stole customer data from US financial services firm Capital One. The breach affected 106 million individuals, including six million Canadians, and collected private data including social insurance/security numbers and bank account details. In 2018, Marriott Hotels announced that its reservation system had been breached, and that private data on about 500 million guests was stolen. The attack was linked to state-sponsored hackers and allowed them to collect data including names, addresses, and passport numbers.


ONLINE FOREIGN INFLUENCE
A growing number of states have built and deployed programs dedicated to undertaking online influence as part of their daily business. Adversaries use online influence campaigns to attempt to change civil discourse, policymakers’ choices, government relationships, and the reputation of politicians and countries both nationally and globally. They try to delegitimize the concept of democracy and other values such as human rights and liberty, which may run contrary to their own ideological views. They also try to exacerbate existing friction in democratic societies around various divisive social, political, and economic issues. While online foreign influence activities tend to increase around elections, these ongoing campaigns have broadened in scope since 2018, expanding to react and adapt to current events, shifting their content strategies around trending news stories and popular political issues.

As predicted in NCTA 2018, Canadians have continued to be the subject of online foreign influence activity. For instance, we have observed recent campaigns focus their content around COVID-19 and government responses to the pandemic. Disinformation campaigns have also sought to discredit and criticize Canadian politicians to damage their reputations. However, we assess that relative to some other countries, Canadians are lower-priority targets for online foreign influence activity, though Canada’s position on high-tension geopolitical issues could increase the threat. Crucially, Canada’s media ecosystems are closely intertwined with those of the United States and other allies, which means that when their populations are targeted, Canadians become exposed to online influence as a type of collateral damage.

We assess that Canadians’ exposure to online foreign influence is almost certainly going to continue for the next two years or more, though threat actors will be forced to adapt their activities to the changing policies of Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

STATE-SPONSORED ACTORS SEEKING TO DIVIDE CANADIANS
Analysis of publicly released Twitter data revealed that Russian and Iranian online trolls used fraudulent Twitter accounts to highlight divisions among Canadians by amplifying inflammatory arguments surrounding divisive political issues such as terrorism, climate change, pipeline construction, and policies on immigration and refugees. Many of these tweets reacted to major news events such as the January 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting and the June 019 approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.


THREATS TO PHYSICAL SAFETY AND SECURITY
Personal Internet-connected devices, including IoT medical devices, Internet-connected vehicles, and smart home security systems are being integrated into day-to-day life and providing new targets for cyber threat actors. While other cyber threats, such as data breaches, are more common and have broader impacts, there is a risk that future cyber threat activity against these devices and systems can impact physical safety. For example, Internet-connected medical devices are increasingly common and are vulnerable to cyber threat actors who could target these devices and degrade or disrupt their performance.

As another example, stalkers and abusive partners are taking advantage of vulnerabilities in personal IoT devices to steal information collected by fitness trackers and smart home technologies to identify and locate their victims. They are also manipulating smart home devices to control a victim’s surroundings and intimidate them. In one case, a man operated a smart vehicle application that allowed him to stop, start, and track his victim’s vehicle from his phone. An organization providing support for victims of domestic abuse reported that, as of January 2019, more than 2,500 of its clients had reported experiences of technology-facilitated abuse.

THE ABOVE JUST A SECTION OF THE CANADIAN CENTRE FOR CYBER SECURITY – NATIONAL CYBER THREAT ASSESSMENT

FOR THE FULL REPORT CLICK HERE


Top 10 Cyber Crime Prevention Tips

  1. Use Strong Passwords
    Use different user ID / password combinations for different accounts and avoid writing them down. Make the passwords more complicated by combining letters, numbers, special characters (minimum 10 characters in total) and change them on a regular basis.
  2. Secure your computer
    • Activate your firewall
      Firewalls are the first line of cyber defense; they block connections to unknown or bogus sites and will keep out some types of viruses and hackers.
    • Use anti-virus/malware software
      Prevent viruses from infecting your computer by installing and regularly updating anti-virus software.
    • Block spyware attacks
      Prevent spyware from infiltrating your computer by installing and updating anti-spyware software.
  3. Be Social-Media Savvy
    Make sure your social networking profiles (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, MSN, etc.) are set to private. Check your security settings. Be careful what information you post online. Once it is on the Internet, it is there forever!
  4. Secure your Mobile Devices
    Be aware that your mobile device is vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Download applications from trusted sources.
  5. Install the latest operating system updates
    Keep your applications and operating system (e.g. Windows, Mac, Linux) current with the latest system updates. Turn on automatic updates to prevent potential attacks on older software.
  6. Protect your Data
    Use encryption for your most sensitive files such as tax returns or financial records, make regular back-ups of all your important data, and store it in another location.
  7. Secure your wireless network
    Wi-Fi (wireless) networks at home are vulnerable to intrusion if they are not properly secured. Review and modify default settings. Public Wi-Fi, a.k.a. “Hot Spots”, are also vulnerable. Avoid conducting financial or corporate transactions on these networks.
  8. Protect your e-identity
    Be cautious when giving out personal information such as your name, address, phone number or financial information on the Internet. Make sure that websites are secure (e.g. when making online purchases) or that you’ve enabled privacy settings (e.g. when accessing/using social networking sites).
  9. Avoid being scammed
    Always think before you click on a link or file of unknown origin. Don’t feel pressured by any emails. Check the source of the message. When in doubt, verify the source. Never reply to emails that ask you to verify your information or confirm your user ID or password.
  10. Call the right person for help
    Don’t panic! If you are a victim, if you encounter illegal Internet content (e.g. child exploitation) or if you suspect a computer crime, identity theft or a commercial scam, report this to your local police. If you need help with maintenance or software installation on your computer, consult with your service provider or a certified computer technician.

For more information on helping children protect themselves while on the Internet, visit: Cybertip.ca.

For more information on Cyber Security, visit: Get Cyber Safe
For more information about online fraud, scams or identity theft, visit: Scams and Fraud