‘High risk’: Canada, allies warn of state-sponsored cyberthreats to civil society

Cyber actors backed by Russia, China and other foreign adversaries are increasingly targeting non-profit and advocacy groups, journalists, human rights activists and other members of civil society, cyber agencies from Canada and other allies say.

A joint advisory issued Tuesday from Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and FBI, and counterparts from the United Kingdom, Japan, Estonia and Finland warn such groups face a “high risk” of cyberattacks, as many have a “low defense capacity.”


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Those targeted often have a low capacity to defend themselves — for instance, due to a lack of internal IT support.

“Individuals that fall under the civil society umbrella often rely on insecure channels for communication and need to manage public profiles to advance their work,” the advisory cautions.

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“Organizations with low defence capacity are ill-prepared for and vulnerable to common cyberthreats, such as social engineering attempts.”

The agencies released guidance along with its advisory Tuesday on how civil society groups can protect themselves from malicious cyber activity and attacks.

Recommended measures include keeping software updated on all devices, implementing multi-factor authentication and cybersecurity training for all employees, auditing and deleting old or expired accounts, and exercising caution in choosing IT vendors.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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