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

Vandals deface Aldergrove elementary school with racist slur, male genitalia

Langley School District confirms it has filed a report with the Langley RCMP

‘Our hands are tied’: Langley Good Times Cruise-In announces cancellation due to COVID-19

People are encouraged to donate to the chosen Langley charities online, said Cruise-In director

Langley Township lifts evacuation alert as flooding threat drops

People are still advised to avoid the Fraser River due to fast running water

Sources receives $70K from SurreyCares

Funds will help with warehouse space for food programs in Surrey, White Rock, Langley

Langley nurse wins yard makeover in contest for frontline workers

The free yardwork helped relieve some of the stress for a Willoughby nurse and mom

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Man shot dead in east Abbotsford suburbs

Integrated Homicide Investigative Team called to investigate

Most Read