Foreign hackers attack Canadian government
Last Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011 | 5:08 AM ET
By Greg Weston, CBC News
An unprecedented cyberattack on the Canadian government, apparently from China, has given foreign hackers access to highly classified federal information and forced at least two key departments off the internet, CBC News has learned.
The attack, first detected in early January, left Canadian counter-espionage agents scrambling to determine how much sensitive government information may have been stolen and by whom.
Highly placed sources tell CBC News the cyberattacks were traced back to computer servers in China.
They caution, however, that there is no way of knowing whether the hackers are Chinese, or some other nationality routing their cybercrimes through China to cover their tracks.
So far, officials in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government have been all but mum on the extraordinary breach of security.
The government initially issued a terse statement, passing it all off as merely an "attempt to access" federal networks. It has refused to release any further information.
Finance, Treasury Board
Sources have confirmed, however, that the attackers successfully penetrated the computer systems at the federal government's two main economic nerve centres, the Finance Department and Treasury Board.
The hackers apparently managed to take control of computers in the offices of senior government executives as part of a scheme to steal the key passwords that unlock entire government data systems.
It is unclear whether the attackers were able to compromise other departmental computer networks, including those that contain Canadians' sensitive personal information such as tax and health records.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a security analyst and former CSIS intelligence officer, told CBC News on Thursday "all indications point at China" as the origin of the attempted cyber espionage.