Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to a caucus meeting in West block, Wednesday, December 11, 2019 in Ottawa. Federal cabinet ministers now have their own special hotline to report suspected hacking incidents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to a caucus meeting in West block, Wednesday, December 11, 2019 in Ottawa. Federal cabinet ministers now have their own special hotline to report suspected hacking incidents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Trudeau cabinet ministers get special hacker hotline to report suspected breaches

The hotline is operated by the Ottawa-based Centre for Cyber Security

Federal cabinet ministers now have their own special hotline to report suspected hacking incidents.

Officials at the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security set up the round-the-clock telephone service last year to respond swiftly to possible security breaches, newly released documents show.

The hotline, one of several protective measures for ministers, is an indication of how seriously the government takes the prospect of a cyberattack on cabinet members.

The phone service is a “front-line response to address compromise and limit damage,” says a confidential information circular for ministers.

The hotline is operated by the Ottawa-based Centre for Cyber Security, a division of the Communications Security Establishment, the federal government’s electronic spy service.

The centre has access to a cabinet member’s deputy minister and departmental security officer, the House of Commons and online service providers, the circular adds, and can lock down or help regain control of accounts.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain a copy of the circular, portions of which were withheld due to the sensitivity of the subject.

It was part of a briefing package on ministerial security prepared last August for Privy Council clerk Ian Shugart by Greta Bossenmaier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser at the time.

Since publication of the CSE’s 2017 report on threats to Canada’s democratic process, political parties, candidates and their staff have continued to be targeted worldwide by cyberthreats, the agency said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

In advance of the October federal election, the CSE and its Centre for Cyber Security decided to offer cabinet ministers the 24/7 hotline service, and it “is still operational today,” the cyberspy agency said.

The centre provided online security guidance to ministers at a briefing last March and all cabinet members subsequently registered for the hotline service, Shugart was advised in August.

Ministers are supposed to call the hotline immediately if they suspect a compromise of their ministerial, parliamentary or personal email, or their social-media accounts, the information circular says.

Operators “who have an awareness of your online footprint” are ready to help deal with any breach and contain the fallout.

The CSE and the centre provided a similar service for political parties, but only during the election campaign.

“Due to operational security reasons, we are unable provide a specific breakdown of the incidents reported through the hotline, but we can confirm that the service was used effectively by ministers, as well as political parties throughout the 2019 general election,” the CSE said.

“As per Cyber Centre standard policy, we do not comment on specific meetings with individual political parties, candidates and their staff, nor do we comment on any specific incident.”

For both the pre-election cabinet and the current one, the Privy Council Office co-ordinated a briefing for ministers’ chiefs of staff on cybersecurity and other protective services, attended by representatives from the CSE and RCMP.

In addition, following the October election, all ministers received “tailored, individual briefings” in which the security programs were discussed, the PCO said.

ALSO READ: Conservatives press Trudeau on alleged Chinese role in hack of Canadian data

ALSO READ: Port Alberni teen runner challenges Trudeau to race

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Justin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

Haleigh Callison during a photo shoot for the Toronto Furies when she played professionally in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. (File photo)
Former Smithereen frustrated with COVID-deniers following horrific bout with the disease

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

India farm protest Dec. 1 2020 (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Demonstrators gather in Terrace to support farmers in India

Many farmers are protesting changes to Indian agriculture law

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Terrace RCMP have arrested Kenton David Fast, who was unlawfully at large. (Terrace RCMP Photo)
UPDATE: Terrace RCMP arrest man who was unlawfully at large

Kenton David Fast was arrested on Dec. 1, 2020

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

Most Read