Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday April 10, 2019
Foreign interference in 2019 election ‘very likely’: report
The 2019 federal election is “very likely” going to be the target of foreign cyber interference, with voters being the most likely targets of this anticipated meddling, a new report from Canada’s electronic spy agency warns.
The report is also putting renewed spotlight on the risks of not having more robust cybersecurity and transparency requirements for social media platforms and political parties in place in advance of this year’s campaign, given these two areas are cited as being potential targets for foreign actors.
“An increasing number of foreign adversaries have the cyber tools, the organizational capacity and a sufficiently advanced understanding of Canada’s political landscape to direct cyber interference during the 2019 federal election, should they have the strategic intent,” the report states.
The report is an update to the 2017 Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process report published by the Communication Security Establishment (CSE).
The 2017 report noted that Canada’s electoral process would not be immune from potential interference by outside actors, and that federal candidates, parties, and voters are all at risk. The update notes that the likelihood of online election meddling has increased as the amount of cyber interference in other countries has increased over the last two years.
Now, CSE says that it is “highly likely” that interference in Canada’s democratic process will be done using similar tools that have been implemented in other countries, such as amplifying polarizing political issues, promoting one party over another or discouraging participating in the election altogether.
The document repeatedly cites Russia as an example of a foreign country that has been proven to be conducting this kind of cyber interference, including during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Though a CSE official speaking to reporters on background said it is not anticipated that interference in the Canadian election will be on the same scale as what Americans experienced.
The intention of cyber interference is to compromise or gain access to information, or to use online means to “covertly manipulate online information” in order to influence voters’ opinions and ultimately the outcome of the election. (Source: CTV News)