Report: Canadian cyberattack traced to China

A recent cyberattack launched against the Canadian government apparently stemmed from China, according to CBC News.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

A cyberattack against Canada that tried to access classified government information and forced two key departments to go offline has been traced back to China, according to a story today from CBC News.

Sources told the CBC that the attacks were initially discovered in early January but that it's unknown whether the attackers themselves were in China or just directed their attacks through the country to hide their true source.

Specifically, the attacks reached computer systems at the Canadian government's Finance Department and Treasury Board in an attempt to capture passwords for government databases. In response, the government was forced to shut down all Internet access for the two departments, according to the CBC, and only now are public employees slowly getting that access back.

In a brief statement released by the Treasury Board, the Canadian government did confirm an "unauthorized attempt to access its networks," but provided few other details beyond that, according to AFP.

In response to a request for comment, Canada's Public Safety Department e-mailed CNET the following statement on behalf of its minister, Vic Toews:

"We do not comment on the details of security related incidents. That said, our government takes threats seriously and has measures in place to address them. The next phase of our economic action plan is still in development and we have no indication that Budget security has been compromised."

On its end, China has denied any involvement in the attacks.

"What you mentioned is purely fictitious and has an ulterior motive," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a new briefing in Beijing, according to Reuters. "China attaches great importance to computer security and consistently opposes and cracks down on hacking activities according to relative laws and regulations."

Though cyberattacks are used as weapons today by many different countries and organizations, China has often been fingered as a major source of online attacks against other nations. A report released in November by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission pointed to Chinese government involvement in a number of hacking attempts and computer exploits.

Specifically, the USCC found that a Chinese state-run telecommunications provider had redirected traffic for U.S. military and corporate data in April. The group also reported that a China-based spy network was accused of targeting government departments and other groups in India in an attempt to steal sensitive information.

And China was traced as the source behind the cyberattacks launched against Google and other companies in 2009 as a way of targeting human rights activists.