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

Rampage up against the wall

River Kings defeat Rampage in Game 1 of CIHL best-of three semi-finals

Wet’suwet’en pipeline supporters speak up

“Protesters get one side of the story and they stand up with their fists in the air.”

Rainmakers take on defending champs in opening round of Jr. Boys Basketball championships

Prince Rupert basketball club to take on province’s best in Langley on Saturday

We stand with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Blockades, demonstrations do not represent the majority, grievances hijacked by special interest groups

Confusion surrounds terms of RCMP withdrawal from pipeline construction area

B.C. Deputy Commissioner clarifies terms of agreement following minister’s statements

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

‘A long way to go’: UNBC hosts Moose Hide Campaign gathering on Feb. 24

The event is a part of a movement to stand up against violence inflicted on women and children

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Most Read