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Canada's federal election could be a target for cyber attacks: expert

Last Updated Sep 3, 2021 at 10:58 am MDT

A woman uses her computer keyboard in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. With the use of web-based video and audio conferences proliferating during the COVID-19 crisis, cyber security experts warn they pose a threat as well as an opportunity in the age of telework. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

OTTAWA – With the federal election happening in less than three weeks, the security of our election process is a top priority for officials. And according to a cyber security expert, the pandemic has helped online hackers access our private information.

Elections Canada has created a social media monitoring unit for the federal election, devoted to putting a microscope on cyber attacks.

A recent report from Canada’s Communication Security Establishment indicates it is very likely that Canadian voters will encounter some form of foreign cyber interference.

David Masson, director for Darktrace, a company specializing in cybersecurity, says the pandemic has changed everything.

“Prior to the pandemic arriving in Canada, Canada was one of the most internet-connected populations in the world. Since the pandemic, we’ve done the most stuff online, we’ve lived our lives online, we’ve run the country online,” said Masson.

RELATED: Canadians likely to be targeted by foreign actors in next election, cyber agency says

“It’s easier to attack us now, when it comes to elections, because of the prevalence of our use of the internet.”

He says from 2015 to 2020, the vast majority of cyber threats targeted democratic processes including political, economic, and geopolitical events. Voters are among the most vulnerable of the targets.

And attackers might have their eyes on Canada because of its role on the world stage.

“In 2018, the Canadian government basically told the world that we’re well aware of cyber attacks on our elections and started doing something about it then,” Masson said.

There are some things we can do to keep cybercriminals at bay, explains Masson.

“Keep your machines up to date, deal with all of these patches and updates you’re always being told about–there’s a reason they roll them out,” he said.

He also says governments can use artificial intelligence to detect subtle changes and stop cyberattacks in their tracks.