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Security officials investigating cyber 'breach' at Rideau Hall

Given the nature of the target, a former national security analyst said it doesn’t appear to be a ransomware attack.
Governor General Mary Simon speaks during the Presentation of Canadian Honours at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Governor General’s office in Ottawa has become the latest target of a cyber security breach.

In a statement released Thursday, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) said there was unauthorized access to the internal network at Rideau Hall — the office of Mary Simon, the Queen’s representative in Canada, who is also the head of the military.

Former national security analyst, Stephanie Carvin — who is currently an associate professor at Carleton University — told CityNews she was surprised by the breach at first.

“When you think of the Governor General you largely think of a ceremonial role in the Canadian government, but upon reflection it actually makes a lot of sense. I mean, it isn’t just a ceremonial role. Mary May Simon, the Governor General, is the head of the Canadian Armed Forces and she is probably regularly briefed on some fairly sensitive files, like the Indigenous reconciliation,” she explained.

Carvin added Simon may also have information about some government policies and plans, as her role includes approving orders and other pieces of legislation.

Given the nature of the target Carvin said it doesn’t appear to be a ransomware attack.

“This does seem like some kind of espionage, which leads me to believe […] it very likely is a state. There are a number of state actors that do engage in this kind of traditional espionage activity. The Canadian government has publicly identified China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as being actors in this space, but there are also a lot more.”

The OSGG said it is now working with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security on the investigation and has immediately taken steps to strengthen its network.

Officials with the communications security establishment said in a statement “although this investigation is ongoing we can assure you that we are working closely with OSGG to ensure there are robust systems and tools in place to monitor, detect, and investigate potential threats, and to neutralize threats when they occur.”

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