Ottawa unveils new cybersecurity strategy targeting public, businesses

Ottawa unveils new plan to ‘detect, deter, investigate and prosecute’ cyber crime
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale unveils a new plan to 'detect, deter, investigate and prosecute' cyber crime.

The federal government is rolling out a new cybersecurity strategy designed to better protect the country and its citizens from the growing threat of online attacks and crime.

The plan, backstopped by $500 million over five years that was included in this year’s federal budget, includes a range of initiatives aimed at the public as well as businesses.

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Those include the establishment of a new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security this fall, a certification program for small businesses that want to shore up their cyber-defences and more resources for the RCMP to tackle online crime.

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“We must better protect ourselves and our systems against evolving cyberthreats while also enlarging our capacity to combat cybercrime and prosecute offenders,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

The plan, which is an update to Canada’s first cybersecurity strategy in 2010, faces at least one immediate hurdle: a shortage of cybersecurity specialists that is making it difficult for the  federal government and others to recruit talent.

The government is hoping that positioning Canada as a world leader on cybersecurity will not only address that problem but add to the estimated 11,000 jobs and $1.6 billion that it says the sector already generates each year.

“That is a huge challenge and a huge opportunity,” Goodale said of the shortage of cybersecurity specialists.

“The world will be demanding people with these talents and skills who understand cybersecurity and can deliver the goods for their employers, whether they are in the private sector or the public sector.”

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The strategy does not, however, include any specific funding to get more Canadians into the field, or set money aside to help industry develop new cybersecurity products.

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The plan is also largely silent about foreign-owned telecommunications companies such as Huawei, which intelligence chiefs in the U.S. have identified as a national security risk.

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The emphasis on helping small businesses better protect themselves and their customers was greeted with approval from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which represents Canadian internet domains.

“Small-and medium-sized Canadian businesses are the backbone of our economy, but are also the most  vulnerable,” said president Byron Holland.

“Providing these businesses with the strategies and resources is essential to holding back the tide of cyberthreats.”

But the strategy was panned by the Council of Canadian Innovators for a lack of dedicated funding to help Canada’s cybersecurity industry grow.

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“It’s disappointing to see lack of commitment to build Canada’s cyber sector,” said executive director Benjamin Bergen.

“Cyber is the fastest growing ICT sector in the world and domestic innovators present an opportunity for our government to grow our economy and deploy world-class technology solutions for protecting Canada’s digital borders.”