How the National Cyber Threat Assessment came to be
Two months ago, in October 2018, the government launched the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security as part of the Communications Security Establishment. CSE has been assessing threats to Canada’s security for decades. But while CSE operates on classified intelligence, the Cyber Centre is an unclassified, outward-facing organization with the motto of security through collaboration. Collaboration, however, is impossible without sharing information. So, we set out to publish the first-ever unclassified National Cyber Threat Assessment.
Canadians need to be informed about possible cyber threats so they can protect themselves online and defend against them. We wanted to outline our view of what we call the cyber threat surface and publish a digestible report that all Canadians would be able to understand.
First, the Threat Assessment, Reporting and Planning section of the Cyber Centre brainstormed with leading subject matter experts who follow trends in cyber security. We consulted our industry partners and took stock of what was timely in the news and took on the daunting task of prioritizing which were the most important current themes we wanted to include in the assessment.
Next, we looked to the technical side and asked ourselves what the Cyber Centre’s defensive data tells us about the capability and intent of potential adversaries. This is where our distinctive advantage comes into play. The Cyber Centre defends one of the largest networks in Canada – the federal government’s network. This gives us a unique perspective on trends in the global cyber arena.
Finally, the report-writing stage. This is where we did things a little differently than we were used to. We decided not to write a secret report and then remove all the sensitive information to make it unclassified. We didn’t want a watered-down report. So, we wrote it as an unclassified publication for Canadians using unclassified sources, even on issues where the Cyber Centre has classified information. The result is a document that serves as an introduction to a non-technical audience about cyber, a big part of our lives that poses a threat and is always changing.
Canadians are shifting so much of our lives online and are connecting more devices than ever before. By doing these two things at the same time – and doing so rapidly – our threat surface expands just as fast. It grows with every new piece of technology we connect, whether it’s a smart thermostat or a smart speaker.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to protect yourself or your organization. Taking basic steps, such as implementing the Top 10 IT Security Actions and practicing good Cyber Hygiene, go a long way to protecting yourself. By following the tips laid out on the Cyber Centre website, you’ll stay informed on cyber threats and will significantly improve your cyber security defences to protect yourself from cyber threat actors. And as we head in to the holidays, consider also reviewing the Cyber Security Buying Guide published by our Get Cyber Safe campaign.
We hope you enjoy our first-ever unclassified National Cyber Threat Assessment. To stay up to date on our future publications, sign up for our RSS feed.