Canada slow to respond to cyber threats: auditor

Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:08am EDT
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By Andrea Hopkins

(Reuters) - Canada's response to cyber threats has been slow and incomplete, the federal Auditor General said in a report on Tuesday that cited bad communication and part-time monitoring as weaknesses in the nation's computer and infrastructure security system.

The federal Conservative government has made limited progress in patching cracks in the security of Canada's physical and information technology network since a cyber attack crippled the Finance Department and Treasury Board in 2011, Auditor General Michael Ferguson said.

Ferguson criticized poor monitoring of threats, noting the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Center is still not operating 24 hours a day or seven days a week, as was intended when the center was set up seven years ago.

"This restriction on operating hours can delay the detection of emerging threats and the sharing of related information among stakeholders," the report concluded.

The report comes nearly two years after the government was forced to shut down Internet access in key departments after servers linked to China infiltrated computer systems at the Finance Department and Treasury Board. The January 2011 attack was linked with attempts to gather data about a potential takeover of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, the world's biggest fertilizer producer.

The opposition Liberals seized on the report as evidence the government has not done enough to shore up security after the 2011 incident.

"Cyber criminals ... don't keep bankers' hours. I wonder why the government of Canada should be keeping those hours when cyber criminals are working 24 hours a day?" Liberal leader Bob Rae said in Parliament.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government has accepted the recommendations in the report and would spend more to improve security.   Continued...

Canada's Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks during a news conference on the release of his report in Ottawa April 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie