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National Security Threats - Perception or Reality

The director of CSIS stated, in the 2018 Public Report, that “terrorism remains the number one national security threat to public safety for Canada.

Although terrorism remains a threat, I find the statement incredulous, in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars of confirmed annual losses to foreign based cyber crime and espionage, the deliberate interference in our critical natural infrastructure, control of national resources, infiltration of supply chains and influence in our democratic processes – all of which have demonstrable / measureable impact.

In a recent article published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, compared perceptions and reality of the leading causes of death. It found that 33% media stories reporting death had a terrorism nexus. However, the actual cause of death owing to terrorism was shown to be miniscule. Similarly the chance of a Canadian being injured by or suffering loss from a terrorism attack is less than 1/10 million. Compare this to other deliberate threats like violent crime 1/333,333, or cybercrime (espionage) where nearly all Canadians will be affected and the average cost of malware attacks was $3.5 million per company. The direct and indirect cause of death owing to cyber attack would be an interesting study.

To quote the CSIS report:

“Foreign interference and espionage continued to persist and pose long-term, strategic challenges for Canada. Activities by hostile states are detrimental to Canada’s economic, industrial, military and technological advantage, and have a corrosive effect on our democratic systems and institutions. Interference by foreign spies, or people acting on their behalf, remains the greatest danger. These hostile actors engage in sophisticated methods, leveraging technology and person-to-person methods. The scale, speed, range, and impact of foreign interference has grown as a result of the Internet, social media platforms, and the availability of cheaper and more accessible cyber tools. There has been a noticeable increase in economic espionage in Canada. This type of espionage has had ramifications for Canada, including lost jobs, corporate and tax revenues, and a diminished competitive advantage. Cyber-espionage, cyber-foreign-influenced activities [and state sponsored crime] ... pose significant threats to Canada’s national security, its interests, as well as its economic stability.”

Experts foresee a continued weaponization of cyberspace. Unprecedented advancements in science, will shape the future security environment in extraordinary fashion at the speed-of-cyber. Disruptive technologies, sociological, and geopolitical trends are on a converging - the effect of which will be far greater than the sum of their parts. Competition, conflict and war between states is occurring on cyber terrain owned, operated and controlled by the private sector. The build-up of offensive capabilities of nation states and a consolidation of darkweb territory by transnational crime, is supported by adversary states - ultimately leading to increased competition and conflict in contested space.

Cyberspace has clearly emerged as a strategic centre of gravity for western nations, prompting adversaries to conduct a range of malicious cyberspace activities aimed at achieving competitive advantage and harming Canadian interests. There have been incidents of foreign militaries overrunning networks of importance to Canada, infiltrating vital supply chains and staging malware in our critical infrastructure.

In the future, Hostile Intelligence Services and Militaries will continue to attack, destroy, exploit, interfere with and influence Canadian interests domestically and abroad using cyber as part of a broader agenda. Russia and China will continue to compete aggressively against Canada in this space just below the threshold of armed conflict.

Threats and subsequent risks require empirical measurement to put them in perspective, allocate appropriate funding and gauge programmatic efficacy. What is happening in Cyberspace should be a predominate concern for National Security - particularity given that information is the currency of the Service.

The responsibility protecting and defending Canadians rests, to a large part, with the Federal Government as the national guarantor of Peace, Order and Good Government (POGG). No other entity, in theory, has the mandate to address the risks to national security.The government has the mandate to address these risks to national security and prosperity, although limited means to achieve this objective unilaterally. What is apparent is that national security involving cyber is a team sport involving close equitable partnerships between government and industry.

The implications of Cyber will need ongoing analysis and foresighting, given its centrality to national security issues.

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