A leading Cybersecurity analyst tells MPs that foreign hackers have targeted Canadian banks, mining companies, and government institutions to steal information and infect the system with malware.

Christopher Porter, the chief intelligence strategist at security firm FireEye, says in February 2017 multiple major Canadian financial institutions were exposed to the risk of state-sponsored cybertheft from North Korea in a scheme to redirect people to malicious downloads that would seize control of their computer.

Porter is appeared as a witness today at the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security said “At least a half-dozen organized-crime groups conduct financial crime operations targeting companies and people in Canada with a sophistication once seen only among nation-states. A number of Canadian financial organizations appeared prominently on the ultimate target list.”

FireEye, which works with Canadian military and public-safety institutions routinely uncovers major underground sites selling thousands of stolen Canadian credit cards at a time, sometimes from major banks, but also targeting customer accounts at smaller banks and credit unions,” Porter said.

Canada is often one of the first nations targeted for new types of cyberoperations due to its financial wealth, high-tech development and membership in NATO.

FIN10 is one such group that has focused specifically on Canada since 2013 and has been carrying out several intrusion operations against mining, gambling, and pilfering business data and extorting victims.

Porter said “The cyber espionage threat to Canada is moderate, but could be on the rise. We have observed 10 separate espionage groups from China, Russia, and Iran targeting Canada in recent years.”

Organizations in the government, defense, high-tech, non-profit, transportation, energy, telecommunications, education, and media sectors, among others, have all been affected – much like they have in many Western countries, he said.

In its recent annual report, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has warned that the biggest online threat Canadians face is cybercrime including theft, fraud, and extortion.

It also said foreign countries are very likely to try to advance their agendas in 2019 – a general election year – by manipulating Canadian opinion with malicious online activity.

“The need to protect people from cyber threat is important, to ensure they are aware of possible risks. Cybersecurity” Porter told MPs.

However, such efforts to twist public opinion or compromise candidates are not limited to the cybersphere.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians said this week it would examine the threat to national security from foreign interference and the measures in place to counter it.

The committee concluded, “Canada, like most other western democracies, is vulnerable to foreign actors seeking to illegitimately influence or interfere in our political and economic processes.”

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