Canada Aiming at Improving Cybersecurity of Federally Regulated Industries Through Bill C-26

Canada recently started looking at a new piece of legislation that seeks to strengthen cybersecurity of businesses and organizations the activities of which fall within ambit of activities that the Federal government can directly regulate.

Interestingly, contrary to most Canadian legislation so far and that touch upon cybersecurity, the focus this time is not on whether an organization collects, uses or discloses personal information. Rather, the bill at issue would seek to cover whole swats of certain industries, whether the organizations operating therein do or do not deal with personal information. This is a new approach in Canada which may signify that the government is finally realizing we collectively need to take cybersecurity more seriously, and that it is more than an issue of personal information.

Bill C-26 proposes to impose on telecommunication providers a new regime that would force them to adopt better cybersecurity practices, with a view to better protecting Canadians who rely on their services for things like cell phone and Internet services.

More generally, the bill would also empower the Canadian government to force federally regulated businesses to clean-up their act (so to speak), cybersecurity-wise, especially when it may jeopardize national security or public safety. As you may know, in Canada, federally regulated businesses include, for example, those who deal with:

  • radio, television and telecommunications, such as Internet providers;
  • air transportation, including airlines, airports, ports, shipping, boats, as well as railways and road transportation services that cross borders;
  • banks;
  • certain energies and their transport, like pipelines, etc.

Bill C-26 would allow the Federal government to require organizations operating in those areas to take cybersecurity more seriously, in particular when public safety may be involved. For example, this may allow the government to dictate that operators of pipelines better protect and monitor their computer systems, with a view to avoiding major catastrophes that may eventually result from cyber-attacks.

In addition to eventually requiring organizations in those industries to adopt and apply cybersecurity programs and to better protect their systems, C-26 would also require the organizations at issue to report eventual cybersecurity breaches, something they currently are not generally required to do.

Bill C-26 is currently at the First Reading stage.

Major Update of the Canadian Government Login Process for Businesses

The Canadian government finally seems to have realized allowing individual agencies to create and manage credentials individually, for each business that may want to interact with governmental online services, simply does not make sense, including from a cybersecurity standpoint. Starting soon, users who want to login will have to go through a whole new system.

CIPO (the Canadian Intellectual Property Office) recently started offering information and training on the upcoming changes, so as to allow businesses to make the transition, including those that may need to interact with I.P.-related services, for example as to patents, trademarks or industrial designs.

The new system being deployed by the Canadian government will do away with ISED, the former system whereby businesses could create user IDs to login and interact with governmental online services.

The new identification process will involve each business creating an ID (called the GCKey) to which authorized individual users will have to be linked. The system will also require individuals to go through identification and authentication, to make sure they are the actual individual they purport to be and that they are indeed authorized by the organization at issue. Though you may think this was already the case, it was not.

One offshoot of this new method of allowing access by users on behalf of their organization is that it will do away with the sharing of credentials. Once implemented, it will no longer be possible for all users of an organization to “share” a single user ID (account), as was so frequently until now, for purposes of accessing governmental online services.

The new system will also force all user to use 2-step verification to login into their online account, also something most large organizations have been requiring for a while now. The actual implementation of the changes start March 28.

The Ever-Increasing Menace of Ransomware in 2021

I attended the MAPLE-SEC conference this week which I thought was quite good to provide a good overview of the state of cybersecurity and cybercrime, in Canada, in 2021.

On thing we learned during the conference was that a majority of businesses faced with a ransomware incident during the last year, ended-up paying the criminals, to get their data back and/or to avoid its disclosure to third parties. Not too surprisingly, this type of crime is pretty consistently on the rise, as the typical victim ends-up capitulating and rewarding criminals, by paying some sort of ransom.

We also learned recently that a 2021 report by cybersecurity firm Sophos revealed that about a third of businesses were the victim of some sort of ransomware attack during the last year. That makes for ALOT of businesses and data!

With stats like these, it’s not surprising that insurers offering cyber-insurance products are now feeling the pinch. Cyber-insurers are now apparently losing considerable money because of this type of policy. Because of this, an expert in insurance law who spoke at the MAPLE-SEC conference warned everyone that cyber-risk insurance coverage is about to get substantially more expensive for businesses everywhere. His advice as to this was to get the best cyber-insurance you can afford, right now.

Recent stats clearly show ransomware is unfortunately here to stay, as we’re now seemingly paying the price for collectively minimizing the importance of cyber-security for so long.