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Canada’s domestic spy agency looking to hire hackers and data scientists

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OTTAWA–Canada’s domestic spy agency is in the market for hackers.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) wants to hire a “network exploitation analyst” to assist the agency in “cyber investigative activities.”

CSIS is hiring for a “network exploitation analyst.” They build tools for the spy agency to carry out electronic snooping.
CSIS is hiring for a “network exploitation analyst.” They build tools for the spy agency to carry out electronic snooping.  (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The successful candidate will be expected to build new tools for the spy agency to carry out electronic snooping, develop and maintain a database of “malware” exploits, and provide analysis of “technical artifacts,” according to the job posting.

CSIS, which investigates activities suspected of constituting threats to national security, can and routinely does rely on its sister agency, the Communication Security Establishment (CSE), for high-tech help with its espionage efforts. While CSE is focused on gathering foreign intelligence and is forbidden from spying on Canadians, it can assist domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies with their own investigations.

But one spy watcher said CSIS building up an in-house capability for cyber spying may have less to do with traditional espionage than with its new powers actually to disrupt threats to Canada.

Ronald Deibert, the director of Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said he’s not surprised CSIS is in the market for hackers — state-sponsored hacking is on the rise, and the Liberal government’s new national security laws empower Canada’s spy agencies to take part.

But Deibert, one of Canada’s foremost cybersecurity researchers, told the Star that he has significant concerns about the agencies’ new electronic powers.

“While (Liberal national security bill) C-59 placed some limits and provided some clarity on what those disruption powers would entail, the prospect of CSIS hacking in any form should give everyone pause, especially because there is still a lot of uncertainty around what that mandate would allow,” Deibert said in an email.

“Practically speaking, CSIS hacking could include computer network interference in a foreign election process, compromising the integrity of important digital tools that Canadians rely on for everyday privacy and security, creating fake online personas and using them to spread disinformation and more.”

John Townsend, a spokesperson for the spy agency, said Bill C-59 gives the agency “clear legislative authority” for the collection and analysis of information not “directly or immediately” related to national security threats.

“Data acquisition and exploitation are key to modern national security investigations,” Townsend wrote in a statement. “CSIS has employed network exploitation analysts and data scientists for some time. Given our mandate and specific operational requirements, CSIS does not disclose details related to individual job functions.”

The agency is also hunting for data scientists to develop a new program to sift through massive amounts of information to glean useful intelligence, according to a separate job posting.

CSIS received a sharp rebuke in 2016 from Federal Court Justice Simon Noël over the agency’s Operational Data Analysis Centre, which for almost a decade retained and analyzed data on people who posed no threat to Canada’s national security.

While Noël ruled that CSIS lawfully collected the information during the course of their investigations, it was illegal to retain “third party” data indefinitely.

Bill C-59, which Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale introduced in 2017 but has yet to become law, set parameters around how the spy agency can access, collect and analyze “publicly-available data” for its investigations, but critics have suggested the powers are ill-defined and overly broad.

CSIS wants its new team of data scientists to “autonomously find, enrich, transform, interpret, and exploit data to create intelligence products.” So: find data sets, figure out how to “exploit” the information contained in them, and condense it into reports that the spies can stomach.

Deibert pointed to a larger, more philosophical question about Canada’s spies’ growing powers for electronic espionage: is this the kind of activity Canada wants to sanction?

“To the extent CSIS, CSE and other Canadian government agencies are players in this space, they will be contributing to this highly-profitable but extremely dangerous market for ‘digital weapons,’” Deibert said.

“By empowering CSIS to hack, in other words, Canada is helping to normalize a dangerously escalating arms race in cyberspace proven to cause demonstrable harm to businesses, governments, and civil society, including back here in Canada.”

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier or reach him at 613-237-1441.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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