So the Russians hacked the 2016 American election. That much has been confirmed (although we still don’t know any of the juicy info like who colluded with the Russians. Bets on Flynn, anyone?). The NSA also confirmed that the Russians meddled in the French election this year. So basically, Putin is all over the place. But not in Canada, right? Right?
Well, not yet. That’s the official answer from a special investigation conducted by the Canadian federal government with the growing threat of Russian interference. Apparently we are also susceptible to a Russian hack in our upcoming 2019 federal election. That’s certainly concerning (thank goodness Kevin O’Leary is out of the governmental picture).
What would they have to gain?
Well, the report is about foreign bodies in general, but Russia is what’s on everyone’s mind. According to former CSIS (Canada’s FBI) director Dick Fadden, Russia is pretty displeased with the layout of the world at this moment in time and targeting Western countries is a way to disrupt that. The U.S. may be the most influential country in the world (or it was until January 20, 2017), but Canada is a major player too and we’re respected by pretty much the whole world. Targeting us to mess with our government would shake things up for a lot of the world, just like how Trump’s presidency affects us all.
How would that happen?
Here’s the good news: since we still use a paper system for voting, unlike the U.S’s electronic voting machines, we’re less susceptible to an electronic hack that way. No machine tampering for us. Fadden suggests that the most likely way a foreign body might interfere with a Canadian election is through information manipulation. That would mean influencing people through acquiring and releasing sensitive information or circulating false information that either advantages or disadvantages certain parties.
So how do we prevent that?
That one’s a little interesting. The Communications Security Establishment has said in light of their report that they will not protect any parties in particular. It will be up to the parties themselves to protect their own information from hacks. So that leaves them in pretty much the same position as all of us: change your passwords and keep the super-secret stuff offline (with the added option of encrypting sensitive communications and fancy firewall software).
It’s also going to be up to the parties to report and make public any suspicious goings on or misinformation they come across. If we learned anything from the American election (and we learned a lot) it’s that we all need to be on the lookout for fake news and misinformation and protect ourselves. Fadden says that on the individual level, we all need to be aware of this hacking possibility, look at multiple news sources for information and think critically about everything we read.
Constant vigilance, Canada!